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Zinov'ev's Critique of Stalin's Theory of Socialism in one Country, December, 1925 - December, 1926 *

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  25 January 2017

William Korey*
Long Island University


Near the end of 1925, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union was rocked at its foundations by one of the most intense and profound ideological controversies in its history. The ruling “Troika“ of Zinov'ev, Kamenev and Stalin was torn asunder over a series of crucial problems which largely turned on the question of “socialism in one country,” formulated by Stalin in the latter part of 1924. To its opponents, the theory smacked of “national narrowness” and a fatal revision of Marxist orthodoxy.

It was G. E. Zinov'ev, gifted agitator, long-time friend of Lenin, and member of the powerful Politburo of the Party, who assumed the initiative in attacking Stalin's theory and splitting the Party wide open. Having organized the “New Opposition” in October, 1925, he officially opened the attack at the Fourteenth Party Congress in December.

Research Article
Copyright © Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies 1950

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For use of the Trotsky Archives I am indebted to Harvard University Library.


1 For Zinov'ev's citations from Marx, and Engels, , see Puti mirovoj revoljucii: rasširenyj plenum ispolnitef nogo komiteta kommunističeskogo internacionala, stenografičeskijotlčët(Moscow, 1927), II, 60–62 Google Scholar—hereafter referred to as Puti mirovoj revoljucii.

2 Ibid., p. 63. Cf. Stalin's views, ibid., pp. 430–33Google Scholar.

3 For his citations from Lenin, see Zinov'ev, G., Leninizm vvedenie v izučenie Leninizma (3d ed., Leningrad, 1926), pp. 273–79 Google Scholar.

4 XV konferencija vsesojuznoj kommunističeskqj partij (b), stenografileskij otcet (Moscow, 1927), p. 575 Google Scholar, hereafter referred to as XV konferencija.

5 Stalin, Cf. J., Problems of Leninism (New York, 1934), pp. 60–76 Google Scholar.

6 Zinov'ev, , op. cit., pp. 273–74. By “final victory,” Zinov'ev meant the complete socialist society, a society in which classes had been abolished along with want and inequality. See ibid., pp. 263–64.Google Scholar

7 Ibid., pp. 306–09.

8 Ibid., p. 277. The statement is Lenin's. Zinov'ev emphasized it by italics.

9 XV konferencija, p. 574. Cf. his assertion that we are concerned, not with “such a country as America, but with our oivn peasant country,” XIV s'ezd, vsesojuznoj kommunističeskoj partij (b) stenografičeskij otcët (Moscow, 1925),—hereafter referred to as XIV s'ezd, p98.Google Scholar

10 Puti mirovoj revoljucii, II, 66, 76Google Scholar.

11 XIV s'ezd, p. 331. Sokol'nikov left the “New Opposition” in 1926Google Scholar.

12 Ibid., p. 332.

13 XV konferencija, pp. 565, 576Google Scholar.

14 Ibid., p. 570.

15 Zinov'ev consistently referred to creating a “better material basis” for the proletarian alliance with the peasantry, to the necessity of “an agreement with the peasantry,“ if the socialist state was to be maintained in Russia. See Zinov'ev, , Leninizm, vvedenie vizučenie Leninizma, p. 292 Google Scholar; and Zinov'ev, , Russia's Path to Communism (London, 1925), p. 13 Google Scholar. “Agreement” very likely meant material goods. A. Baykov pointed out how great was the need for consumer goods during NEP. Imports of such goods increased significantly during the period 1925–27. See Baykov, A., The Development of the Soviet Economic System (New York, 1947), pp. 74–77 Google Scholar. Another facet of the problem was the recognition by the “New Opposition” that the industrialization program was dependent upon grain export. See Sokol'nikov's speech, XIV s'ezd, p. 330. Such export could be obtained, in part, through offering the peasants consumer goods.

16 Zinov'ev, , “Zajavlenie po motivam golosovanija,” The Russian Collection, Dossier Nr. B3, p. 2 Google Scholar, in the Trotsky archives, at Houghton Library, Harvard University— hereafter referred to as “Zajavlenie po motivam golosovanija.” Why Zinov'ev advocated an increase in industrialization at a more rapid tempo cannot be treated in this article. According to Trotsky's notes, the document was written largely by Zinov'ev.

17 Puti mirovoj revolujucii, II, 70.

18 XV konferencij, p. 565Google Scholar. For if, he pointed out, the expansion of capitalism could lead to a war between two groups of imperialist powers, then the growth of this same expansion could lead to an imperialist bloc against the Soviet Union.

19 Šestoj rašBrennyj plenum ispolkoma kominterna, stenografčëskij otcet (Moscow, 1927), p. 36—hereafter referred to as Šestoj rasširennyj plenum Google Scholar

20 He does take note of antagonism between America and England, but said that this should not be necessarily “exaggerated.” See ibid., p. 21. Concerning antagonism within Europe, he says little.

21 Document without title signed by Zinov'ev and others in The Russian Collection, Dossier Nr. io, p. 1, in Trotsky Archives.

22 Puti mirovoj revoljucii, II, 72.

23 Ibid., p. 79. Such overestimation is not accidental, he contended, but arises out of a period of relative stabilization of capitalism, a situation which generates “stabilization moods” and “opportunism.”

24 Ibid., p. 61.

25 For his analysis of the economic instability of capitalism, see XIV s'ezd, pp. 642–45. Zinov'ev explained the drop in foreign trade as a result of the industrialization of backward areas and the rise of American competition.

26 Šestoj rašurennyj plenum, pp. 19, 20, 28. other social results which he observed were: an enormous increase in taxes, the rise in unemployment in europe to five million, and the fluctuation and drop in real wages.

27 XIV s'ezd, p. 649.

28 Ibid., p. 650.

29 Zinov'ev, , “Velikie sobytija v Anglii,” Izvestija, May 5, 1926, p. 2.Google Scholar

30 Šestoj raširennyj plenum, p. 3.

31 Ibid., pp. 14, 31.

32 Zinov'ev, “Itogi VI plenuma IKKI,” Izvestija, April 28, 1926, p. 5.

33 Kamenev's, Cf. speech, XV konferencija, p. 481 Google Scholar.

34 Zinov'ev, , Leninizm, vvedenie v izučenie Leninizma, p. 7Google Scholar.

35 Puti mirovoj revoljucii, II, 66. See also his speech at Halle, Germany, in 1920: Sinowjew, Die Weltrevolution und die III Kommunistische Internationale (Hamburg, 1920), p. 10: “ The economic preconditions … for the proletarian revolution … are present.“

36 Zinov'ev, , “Sem’ let, “ Kommunističeskij International (December, 1924), p. 8.Google Scholar

37 Zinoviev, , Russia's Path to Communism, p. 21 Google Scholar.

38 For the pendulum character of capitalism, see Zinov'ev, , “Sem’ let,” op. cit., pp. 8–9; “Ocerednye problemy mezdunarodnogo kommunisticeskogo dvizenija,” Kommunisticeskij International (February, 1926), p. 5Google Scholar.

39 Zinov'ev, , “Itogi VI plenuma IKKI,” op. cit., p. 5. He said that every crisis that capitalism underwent weakened it furtherGoogle Scholar.

40 Šestoj rasširennyj plenum, p. 13.

41 “Reč’ tov. Zinov'eva vo francuzskoj komissii,” Kommunističeskij International (March, 1926), p. 82.Google Scholar

42 XlVs'ezd, p. 666.

43 Cf. Pjatyj vsemirnyj kongress kommunističeskogo internacionala, stenografičeskij otčët (Moscow, 1925), p. 440; XV Konferencija, p. 565 Google Scholar.

44 Zinov'ev, , “Očerednye problemy meždunarodnogo kommunističeskogo dviženija,“ op. cit., p. 22 Google Scholar.

45 He noted that by correct tactics the reformist illusions of the working class can be ended much sooner than usual. See ibid., p. 16. After noting that in Great Britain, France, Germany and the East, serious events were coming to a head, he emphasized that the Communist International must get ready to play a decisive role in those areas. See iestoj rasiirenyj plenum, p. 463

46 Ibid., p. 14.

47 Ibid., p. 466.

48 Ibid., pp. 24, 27, 31.

49 XIV s'ezd, pp. 655–56.

50 Šestoj rasširenyj plenum, p. 31.

51 Zinov'ev, , “Zajavlenie k stenogramme ob'edinennogo plenuma CK i CKK,” The Russian Collection, Dossier Nr. 1, p. 2 Google Scholar, in the Trotsky Archives—hereafter referred to as “Zajavlenie k stenogramme.“

52 Ibid.

53 Zinov'ev, stated that backward countries could skip the stage of capitalism and pass directly to socialism. See Pervyj s'ezd narodov Vostoka (Petrograd, 1920), p. 40 Google Scholar; Šestoj rašhrenyj plenum, p. 31.

54 Stalin's policy was directed toward keeping the Chinese Communist Party within the Kuomintang framework. Zinov'ev observed that those who fail to advocate the eventual independence of the Chinese Communist Party from the Kuomintang incline toward petty-bourgeois thought. See “Zajavlenie k stenogramme,” p. 2

55 “Rczoljucija predloženaja i jul'skomu plenomu oppozicij o general'noj stačke v Anglii, “The Russian Collection,” Dossier Nr. 10, p. 1, in the Trotsky Archives. Signed by Zinov'ev and other Opposition members. The proletariat in the May General Strike in England, had, according to Zinov'ev, all the possibilities of being victorious in the “Civil War,” but it was, he said, “betrayed” by the Social-Democratic General Council. Cf. Zinov'ev, ‘Cetvertoe avgusta'-Gensoveta’ Kommunističeskij International (June, 1926), p. 27

56 Ibid.

57 “Zajavlenie po motivam golosovanija,” p. 3.

58 “Zajavlenie k stenogramme,” pp. 1–2

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