G. Zinoviev


The Russian Communist Party
During Four Years of Revolution

(30 December 1921)

Source: International Press Correspondence, Vol. 1 No. 20, 30 December 1921, pp. 161–162.
On-line Publication: Zinoviev Internet Archive, February 2019.
Transcription/Mark-up: Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Our party was not very big in the beginning of 1917. At the end of April 17, some weeks after [1] the collapse of Czarism, the first All-Russian Conference of our party was held at Petro grad. According to official figures there were at this conference 133 delegates with a deciding vote representing 76,577 organized members of the party. There were also present at the conference delegates with a consultative voice from organizations counting less than 300 members. These delegates represented 2,627 party members. In all therefore 79,174 members were represented at the Conference. Petrograd had 4,597 members, Moscow 7,000, Moscow district 4,500, the Urals 14,600, Donetz basin 5,433, Saratov 16,000, Ivanovo-Vosnesnensk 3,654, Sorgovo 2,009, Samara 2,800, Kazan 400, etc.

80,000 members in entire immense Russia. With these forces our party entered the Revolution in 1917.

Was our party then already a party of the masses?

Unquestionably! Workers’ mass parties are not always, not under all circumstances quantitatively strong. This is best seen in the history of our party. The Labor Party of Russia was becoming a party of the masses in the nineties of the last century. The Bolshevik Party which was considered at its inception in 1903 as a sect, was in 1904 and in the beginning of 1905 a mass party in the full sense of the word. The slogan “General Strike and Armed Insurrection”, announced in the beginning qf 1905 by the Third Congress of our party, was not the invention of some theoretician, but the mere statement of the fact that our party had then already been bound by numberless ties with those hundreds of thousands of progressive workers whose ideal was armed insurrection for which they were actively preparing themselves. Our party was already a party of the masses in 1905 when it became the spiritual driving power of the Petrograd Soviet of Workers’ Deputies, at least in the second stage of its evolution. Our party had doubtless recruited tremendous masses in 1905 during the December insurrection as well as later in 1906 in the fight against the Cadets and the slogans of the Cadet ministry.

During the victory of the counter-revolution our party was forced to an illegal existence and became greatly reduced in numbers. In the year 1906–1910 our party numbered only something over 10,000 members. Nevertheless it remained a party of the masses in the best sense of the word. The party was one with the working masses, fought against the deviations from principle in the party which might lead to an estrangement from the masses and which threatened to turn the party into a sect.

In the beginning of the new disturbance after the Lena days, the party again embraced large masses of workers. The period of Zviezda and Pravda, the period of strikes during 1912–1913 and our successful fight against the Mensheviks prove that the Party remained a party of the masses.

At the commencement of the imperialist war in 1914 when the workers of Petrograd faced the question of participating in the War Industries Committees, our party was still successful in leading the majority of the workers. But at the outbreak of the Revolution in 1917 we did not have the majority of the workers.

I remember the feeling of bitter disappointment when returning from abroad after the fall of Czarism we found that the party had only a small minority in the Petrograd Soviet. We could not understand how it happened that our party – behind which the majority of workers, or, at any rate the majority of the workers’ vanguard stood so long – could now muster only such a small minority. The reason lay in the unusually grave crisis which the workers’ movement of the entire world including our own, was passing. The social patriotic wind was also blowing among the Russian workers.

But we soon regained the Russian workers to our cause. And this gain was very lasting on the whole.

At the outbreak of the Revolution, two months after the fall of Czarism, we had a party membership of only 80,000 of which 25,000 were probably old members. The rest of the members entered the party two weeks after the fall of Czarism. Nevertheless, our party sent deep roots into the working masses. The Bolshevik Party is at least since 1905 the party of the working class. Thanks to this and to the generally correct tactics of our Party during the Revolution, the C.P.R. did what the moment required.

Immediately after the October Revolution the Party members threw themselves into the work of the Soviets. The leading members of the party were completely taken up with this work. The same was generally true in the case of the local organizations and the rank and file of the party. And no wonder. At that period the basic problem of the day was to create a new state machinery on the ruins of the old system. For several months preceding the October Revolution the entire struggle was concentrated around the slogan: “All Power to the soviets!”

After October this power was conquered. In order to instil life into this slogan, to make it a reality, to create a system of Soviets throughout the land, the party had to devote itself almost exclusively to this work The party work proper was neglected for a long time.

In the middle of 1918 resounded the call: “Back into the Party!” On the one hand the fundamental aim of creating a complete Soviet system on an All-Russian scale was accomplished in general outlines; on the other hand and this chiefly – we noticed then those imperfections of Soviet machinery which have not been completely overcome until this day: bureaucracy, office seeking, estrangement from the masses, official arrogance, “commissarization”, etc. The slogan “Back into the Party!” was characteristic. The more clearly those imperfections in the Soviet machinery came to light the more evident it became to all progressive workers that only the party could save the situation. Only the party could correct the mistakes, organize the work, bring the essential machinery and the personnel into order, turn to account its rich experiences and help the workers to learn the management of the State. Since 1918 the Party has been growing in influence and importance. The leading, controlling and decisive role of the party becomes constantly more evident even to non-party men.

Civil war began. It became keener every day. We commenced our constructive labor: either we would succeed in build ing up the Red Army or the Revolution was lost. The C.P.R. created the Red Army; our law-abiding and “socialist” opponents have not understood and will not understand this for a long time to come. The role of our party in the creation of the Red Army was enormous. As our o0ponents were trying to understand the meaning of the “miracle” – and the creation of the Red Army seemed a miracle to them – they failed to notice that several thousands of the best proletarians of our country united in the Communist Party, were actually building up the Army. Would it have been possible to solve the most important problem of finding Army Commanders without the aid of the party? The importance of the Communist vanguard on the main fronts be came apparent during the tragic events of Kronstadt in spring 1921.

In 1919 we organized a Party Week throughout almost all of Russia. It coincided with the most difficult period for the Soviet government Yudenich, Denikin and Koltchak were then at the acme of their successes. But precisely at this critical time our party attracted like a magnet the best part of the working class; our opponents will not understand this as well for a long time to come. Of course not all members recruited in this week were a gain for the party. But the majority of the 200,000 that joined the party at this time doubtless remained in it and will continue to remain among us and help the party solve all the problems that will face it in the future.

The fourth anniversary of the Revolution coincided with a certain particular event in the development of our party. The Party devoted fully three months to the purification of its ranks. Immediately after the liquidation of the civil war the idea of purifying the party became more and more popular. Naturally, during the years of victorious dictatorship many foreign elements, often mere climbers, joined the party. Immediately after the dis appearance of the external danger the party began the work of purification. Doubtless in the process, we committed here and there grave errors and and acted unjustly towards some comrades, On the whole, however, the procedure will be crowned with success. The party will become more homogeneous in respect of the social character of the membership and in respect of its ideology.

Purification as a mechanical measure cannot of course radically heal the party of all the ills from which it is suffering during the transition period, but nevertheless it will be of great utility. Thanks to the purification of the party the Communists were brought nearer to the non-party working masses; we may consider this as one of the most unique phases in our social and party history. We saw this very clearly a short time ago during the Petrograd elections. At the numerous meetings no one repeated the well known: “You Communists have many camp followers who only joined you for the sake of material gain.” We robbed even our not over-scrupulous opponents of this argument. The prestige of the party rose tremendously.

On the fourth anniversary of our Revolution the party had only about half a million members. The number is small. If the Party were anxious for a large membership it could easily double or triple this number. But we are not doing it. Therein lies our force. I do not want to fall into the commonplace by saying that all is in perfect order. We are well aware of all those difficulties and ills with which our party will have to reckon for a long time to come.

Our party is no longer so homogeneous and the social status of our membership is changing. Industrial workers form the minority even in some of the most important local branches of our party. We must pay the closest attention to this fact and carefully reckon with the danger that lies in a change of the social character of our party membership. The data that show it often lead to serious reflection.

During the last, the fourth year of the proletarian revolution, our party began a fundamental change in its economic policy. The entire party has not as yet assimilated this change. But we may already truly assert that the hope of our enemies, who expected a split in our party on account of the new policy, was vain. No split did or is likely to occur for the simple and sufficient reason that the new economic policy inaugurated by our party is the only possible one in the present circumstances. The dissatisfied party members who in the beginning had an attitude of distrust and antipathy toward the new course came gradually around to the view just considered. Our party must as ever fearlessly face the truth, see clearly the inner dangers that threaten its existence and form no illusions concerning the conditions within the party. During the epoch of dictatorship we must continue on the only correct and unavoidable road, that of legal existence solely for our party, and at the same time we must reckon with all the dangers connected therewith ...

In conclusion I wish to state a very important fact. During the four years of revolution our party contributed much to the unification of the class conscious workers of the world in an international organization, the Communist International. With that pride we can say that ours is not the least among the parties of the C.I.

All this was accomplished by the party that in April 1917 still counted only 80,000 members.

This was no insignificant performance ......

On the fifth anniversary of our party we will surely have reason to be proud of the success accomplished in this most difficult labor as well.

There is no greater honor than membership in the Communist Party. There is nothing more precious, there can be nothing more precious to us than our party, the splendid organization that has already helped the workers so materially in their hard fight for complete emancipation and that stands ready to help them until the fight is carried to a successful conclusion.

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Footnote by MIA

1. In printed text: “before”. This is obviously incorrect.

Last updated: 14 February 2019