The Workers' Opposition in the Russian Communist Party

Documents, 1919-30


Editor / Translator: Barbara C. Allen
The Russian Workers’ Opposition in 1919-21 advocated trade union management of the Soviet economy and worker dominance of the Russian Communist Party’s leading bodies. The Workers’ Opposition in the Russian Communist Party: Documents, 1919-30 comprises articles, speeches, theses, memoranda, protocols, resolutions, letters, diary entries, and other documents pertaining to the activity of the Workers’ Opposition group during its existence and of its individual former members after the group dissolved and until its key members ceased their participation in dissenting political activities by 1930. Most of the documents in the collection have never before been published in English and many have not been published in Russian. It will appeal to those who study Marxism, trade unions, and Soviet history.

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Barbara C. Allen, PhD (2001), Indiana University Bloomington, is Associate Professor of History at La Salle University, USA. She has published Alexander Shlyapnikov, 1885-1937: Life of an Old Bolshevik (Brill, 2015) and Leaflets of the Russian Revolution (Haymarket, 2018).
"Over eight hundred pages of translated archival documents and editorial comment – this is a work of truly Herculean scholarship. Allen shows in fascinating and at times terrifying detail how, even before Stalin became General Secretary of the Russian Communist Party, the worker activists of the pre-revolutionary and revolutionary years were seen as a threat to the Party’s apparatus and had to be marginalised. It is a magnificent and ground-breaking study." --Geoffrey Swain, Professor Emeritus, University of Glasgow

"Barbara C. Allen, author of the excellent biography of Alexander Shlyapnikov, a leader of the Workers’ Opposition, has with this book reinforced her status as our leading expert on that group. For this volume, Professor Allen has translated and edited almost one-hundred documents to include speeches, diary entries, minutes, and correspondence. Many of them are published here for the first time in English, still others for the first time in any language (among them items from the archive of Russia’s Federal Security Service). They demonstrate that the Workers’ Opposition as a movement and as an idea within the Bolshevik Party challenged dominant principles of Soviet governance. In an introduction and in essays that precede each of this collection’s four parts, Professor Allen skillfully analyzes the evolving positions of the Workers’ Opposition as a collective and of its prominent members as individuals. Specialists will find an expansive biographical glossary and index exceptionally useful. In these pages, a history of the Workers’ Opposition and of the Bolshevik Party emerges that is replete with creativity, courage, conviction, imprudence, deceit, and tragedy." --Larry E. Holmes, author of Revising the Revolution: The Unmaking of Russia's Official History of 1917.
Explanatory Notes
Abbreviations and Acronyms


1 Background to the Trade Union Debate, March 1919–Autumn 1920: The Workers’ Opposition in Formation
 1 Economic section of RCP(b) programme, point 5, adopted at the Eighth Congress of the RCP(b), March 1919
 2 A.G. Shliapnikov, ‘Specialists’
 3 A.G. Shliapnikov, ‘Wages and Labour Productivity’
 4 A.G. Shliapnikov, ‘Production and Productivity’
 5 A.G. Shliapnikov, ‘Industrial Productivity’
 6 A.G. Shliapnikov’s report to a meeting of the All-Russian Metalworkers’ Union (VSRM) central committee, the All-Russian Central Council of Trade Unions (VTsSPS), and other union personnel, Autumn 1919
 7 A.G. Shliapnikov, ‘Tasks of the Russian Proletariat’s Economic Organisations’
 8 A.M. Kollontai’s diary notes, January–February 1920
 9 Speeches by Iu.Kh. Lutovinov and A.S. Kiselev at the Ninth Congress of the RCP(b), March–April 1920
 10 A.G. Shliapnikov, ‘Relations between the Russian Communist Party, the Soviets, and Production Unions’
 11 Speeches by Iu.Kh. Lutovinov, S.P. Medvedev, I.I. Kutuzov, and A.M. Kollontai at the Ninth Conference of the RCP(b), September 1920
 12 Iu.Kh. Lutovinov’s proposals to the Ninth Conference of the RCP(b), September 1920
 13 N. Kopylov, ‘That Which Needs to be Destroyed: “Higher-ups” and “Rank-and-File” ’
 14 A.M. Kollontai’s diary notes, circa October 1920
 15 Theses presented to some party cells and to the central committee of the All-Russian Metalworkers’ Union in the autumn of 1920
 16 Iu.Kh. Lutovinov, Letter to Ukrainian Comrades, 23 October 1920
 17 Remarks by I.N. Perepechko, Antonov, and G.E. Zinoviev at the Fifth Conference of the Communist Party (Bolshevik) of Ukraine (CP(b)U), 17–22 November 1920, Kharkov
 18 Letter from G.E. Zinoviev to I.N. Perepechko, 26 November 1920, with excerpts from Perepechko’s letter to Zinoviev
 19 A.G. Shliapnikov, ‘Tasks of Workers’ Unions’
 20 Circular of the All-Russian Union of Metalworkers Communist Faction Bureau about organising party cells in the provinces, Moscow, 16 December 1920

2 The Trade Union Discussion, December 1920–March 1921: The Workers’ Opposition as a Fully-Formed Legal Faction
 1 A.G. Shliapnikov’s speech at the Eighth Congress of Soviets, Moscow, 30 December 1920
 2 Theses of the Workers’ Opposition: Tasks of Trade Unions
 3 Iu.Kh. Lutovinov, Report to the All-Russian Trade Union Council (VTsSPS) on the work of the November–December 1920 trade union commission
 4 A.G. Shliapnikov, ‘Economic Organisation and Unions’ Tasks: For Discussion’
 5 A.M. Kollontai, ‘Time to Analyse’
 6 A.M. Kollontai’s corrections to the Theses on Party Building
 7 A.G. Shliapnikov, ‘Our Intraparty Disagreements’
 8 A.G. Shliapnikov’s speeches to the Communist Faction of the Second All-Russian Congress of Mineworkers
 9 N. Kopylov, ‘Mistake or Urgent Task?’
 10 N.M. Tikhonravov, Supplement to the Theses of the Workers’ Opposition about the Tasks of Trade Unions
 11 Polosatov’s and Kuznetsov’s speeches at the Fourth CP(b)U Conference of Donetsk gubernia, 16–18 February 1921
 12 Documents from Samara about the debates over party building, culture, and the tasks of trade unions, February 1921
 13 Iu.K. Milonov, ‘Theses: the Content of our Cultural Work’, Eighth Samara Gubernia RCP(b) Conference
 14 Iu.K. Milonov, ‘Trade Unions and their Role in the Economic life of the Country: Theses of a Report to the Eighth Samara Gubernia Conference of the RCP(b)’
 15 Speeches, Resolutions, Materials, and Declarations Relating to the Workers’ Opposition at the Tenth Party Congress, March 1921
 16 Iu.K. Milonov, ‘Assembly of Former Underground Party Members during the Tenth Party Congress’

3 From the Ban on Factions through the Eleventh Party Congress, 1921–2: Former Worker Oppositionists Respond to the New Economic Policy and to Repression Against Them
 1 A.M. Kollontai’s diary entries, March–April 1921
 2 Appeals of the Worker-Peasant Socialist Party led by Vasily Paniushkin, early 1921
 3 A.G. Shliapnikov, ‘To the Fourth Congress of the All-Russian Metalworkers’ Union (VSRM)’
 4 A.G. Shliapnikov, ‘Our Economic Policy and Practice’
 5 Speeches protesting party appointment of Metalworkers’ Union leaders; protocols of the RCP CC’s commission, the bureau of the communist faction, and the communist faction of the congress; and other materials relating to the Fourth Congress of the Metalworkers’ Union in May 1921
 6 A.M. Kollontai’s speech to the Third Comintern Congress, 5 June 1921
 7 A.M. Kollontai’s diary entries, July–August 1921
 8 Letter from A.G. Shliapnikov to S.P. Medvedev, 28 June 1921
 9 Letter from A.G. Shliapnikov and S.P. Medvedev to the Politburo and VTsSPS, July 1921, protesting VSNKh decrees
 10 Letter from [A.G. Shliapnikov] to comrade [N.S] Mamchenko, 6 July 1921
 11 Letter from F.A. Mitin to S.P. Medvedev, summer 1921
 12 Letter from A.G. Shliapnikov to F.A. Mitin
 13 Protocol and resolution from a meeting of RCP(b) members who had belonged to the Workers’ Opposition, 8 July 1921
 14 Resolution offered by Aleksei Sovetov to the delegates’ assembly of the Bauman district RCP(b) organisation, 29 July 1921
 15 Letter received by Ukrainian comrades in 1921 from a former member of the Workers’ Opposition, perhaps Ivan Perepechko
 16 Letter from Levit of the Kommunistische Arbeiter-Partei Deutschlands (KAPD) to A.G. Shliapnikov, 30 August 1921, and Shliapnikov’s signed response, 31 August 1921
 17 Excerpts from speeches at the All-Russian Union of Metalworkers central committee plenum, 17–21 October 1921
 18 Iu.Kh. Lutovinov’s speech to the Eleventh Party Conference, 19–22 December 1921, and related party documents
 19 Undated minutes from a meeting of the Workers’ Opposition or the 22
 20 A.G. Shliapnikov’s letter to the Politburo about the Genoa conference, February 1922
 21 Protocol of a 10 February 1922 meeting of a group of 25 delegates to the Fifth All-Russian Congress of Metalworkers and other minutes from meetings of those who would sign the Letter of the 22
 22 Letter of the 22 to the Comintern, signed by Shliapnikov, Kollontai, et al.
 23 Comparison of those signing the Letter of the 22 and the theses of the Workers’ Opposition
 24 Selected Speeches at the Meeting of the RCP(b) Faction of the Fifth Congress of the Metalworkers’ Union, 2–7 March 1922
 25 Letter from Z.L. Shadurskaia to the Politburo, 8 March 1922
 26 Letter from S.P. Medvedev to the Orgburo, 9 March 1922
 27 A.G. Shliapnikov’s correspondence regarding the 22, March 1922
 28 Party Central Control Commission (CCC) questioning of the 22, 17 March 1922
 29 Letter from V.L. Paniushkin in support of Shliapnikov and Medvedev, on the eve of the Eleventh Party Congress
 30 N. Kopylov, ‘For a United Party’
 31 Eleventh Congress of the RCP(b), March–April 1922, Published Speeches at Open Sessions, Unpublished Speeches at 2 April 1922 Closed Session, Published Resolution and other Materials Relating to the Former Workers’ Opposition
 32 A.M. Kollontai’s diary entries on the appeal of the 22 and on the Eleventh Party Congress
 33 Letter from A.M. Kollontai to the Comintern Executive Committee, copying the Politburo
 34 Letter from A.M. Kollontai to the editorial board of the ‘Communist Worker Newspaper’ of Germany, requesting that it cease publication of her brochure, Rabochaia Oppozitsiia, 22 September 1921
 35 Iu.K. Milonov, ‘On the Way to a Worker Encyclopedia: Instead of a Preface’

4 Former Worker Oppositionists in the Debates of the NEP Era and During the First Five-Year Plan, 1922–30
 1 Letter from S.P. Medvedev in Berlin to A.G. Shliapnikov in Moscow, 26 September 1922
 2 Iu.Kh. Lutovinov’s speech at the Twelfth RCP(b) Congress, 17–25 April 1923
 3 S.P. Medvedev’s notes from 6 December 1923, possibly from a private talk given in Moscow by an unidentified German communist
 4 N.A. Kubiak’s speech to the Thirteenth Party Conference, 17 January 1924
 5 A.G. Shliapnikov, ‘Our Differences’, Pravda, 18 January 1924
 6 Resolution proposed by A.G. Shliapnikov and others from the former Workers’ Opposition, [January] 1924
 7 A.G. Shliapnikov’s speeches at the Second Khamovniki District Party Conference, Moscow, 7–10 January 1924
 8 S.P. Medvedev, ‘Letter to a Baku Comrade’, 1924
 9 Letter from S.P. Medvedev in Moscow to A.G. Shliapnikov in France, written 27 December 1924, and A.G. Shliapnikov’s answering letter, dated 7 January 1925, written in Paris
 10 A.G. Shliapnikov, ‘Features of the Current Moment: About Results of the Fourteenth Party Conference’, with S.P. Medvedev’s suggested changes, May 1925
 11 A.M. Kollontai’s diary notes, February 1926 and November [1927]
 12 Letter from I.I. Nikolaenko, Kiev [to A.G. Shliapnikov and S.P. Medvedev], circa 1926
 13 Letter from A.G. Shliapnikov, Moscow, to [I.I. Nikolaenko], 12 May 1926
 14 A.G. Shliapnikov, ‘About a Demonstrative Attack and the Rightist Danger in the Party’
 15 Letter from A.G. Shliapnikov and S.P. Medvedev to the CCC Presidium and the Politburo of the CC VKP(b), 17 September 1926
 16 Letters from A.G. Shliapnikov and S.P. Medvedev to the Politburo, CC and CCC VKP(b), October 1926
 17 A.G. Shliapnikov, ‘Letter to the Editor’
 18 Undated letter from unknown person (perhaps Mariia Trifonova), to Shliapnikov replied in a 19 July 1927 letter
 19 Letter from Aleksandr [Shliapnikov] to unknown person, 19 July 1927
 20 A.G. Shliapnikov, ‘Lessons of Intraparty Struggle’
 21 A.G. Shliapnikov, ‘For Industrialisation and For Socialism’
 22 A.G. Shliapnikov, ‘Letter to the Editor’
 23 A.G. Shliapnikov’s letter to the Bureau of the Omsk District (Okrug) Party Committee, 4 April 1930
 24 A.G. Shliapnikov, ‘A Big Mistake by a Small Group in Omsk’, 28 February 1930
 25 Letter from A.G. Shliapnikov and S.P. Medvedev to the CCC, 28 April 1930, with a copy to the Politburo

Biographical Glossary
Those who study Marxism, trade unions, and Soviet history; academic libraries, specialists, students, activists.