The Bloc of Oppositions also known as Trotsky's bloc and called by the soviet press The bloc of rights and trotskyites was a political alliance created by oppositionists in the USSR and Leon Trotsky, by the end of 1932. Trotsky defined it as a conspiratorial bloc in order to fight Stalinist repression in the Soviet Union.
The various open opposition groups that had tried to oppose Stalin in the Communist Party had failed, and their former members barely had any power. The former leader of the Left Opposition Leon Trotsky was deported from the Soviet Union, Lev Kamenev and Grigori Zinoviev were expelled from the party, and the rights were sidelined. With growing opposition to Joseph Stalin and his collectivization policies, some bolsheviks decided to form underground opposition groups against him and the party leadership. The bloc was a loose alliance between many of them.
Formation and factions
By the end of 1932, Leon Trotsky and his son Sedov were having contact with the underground opposition inside the USSR. Many non-trotskyist opposition groups were discontent with the regime and the party leadership at the time. This led to the formation of a "bloc" between them. It was not a fusion of ideologies, in fact, Trotsky feared that other fractions of the bloc would gain much power:
The proposal for a bloc seems to me to be completely acceptable. I must make quite clear that we are dealing with a bloc and not a fusion. (...)
My proposed declaration is evidently intended for our fraction of the Left Opposition in the strict sense of the term (and not for our new allies). The opinion of the allies, according to which we should wait for the rightwingers to involve themselves more deeply, does not have my agreement, as far as our fraction is concerned. One fights repression by means of anonymity and conspiracy, not by silence. Loss of time is impermissible: from the political point of view, that would amount to leaving the field to the right-wingers. (...)
The bloc does not exclude mutual criticism. Any propaganda by the allies on behalf of the capitulators (Grünstein, etc.) will be inexorably, mercilessly resisted by us.
The Trotskyist groups
In Sedov and Trotsky's letters they are only referred to as 'our group'. Not much is known about its members at the time, other than the fact that Andrei Konstantinov was one of its leaders. Ivan Smirnov, a former member of the Left Opposition also led a Trotskyist group at the time, which was taken down by Soviet Authorities in late 1932. After the end of the group, Sedov remarked that "the ties with the workers have been preserved."
Zinovievist was term applied to those who followed the views of Grigori Zinoviev and Lev Kamenev, who had themselves publicly repudiated opposition activity. Trotsky's letters do not make it clear how many or who of their followers joined.
The rightist group
Rightist was a term used in the USSR to define those who followed Nikolai Bukharin's pro-NEP stance. In Trotsky's letters, it was clearly stated that "the rightists" had joined the bloc, none of which were named. Trotskyist historian Pierre Broué stated that there was no evidence that Bukharin or his close allies like Rykov or Tomsky were participating in any opposition at the time. The term was most likely referring to the Ryutin group, an oppositionist group in the Soviet Union which supported Bukharin's economic views, but criticized him for capitulating to Stalin. Their platform openly called for "the liquidation of the dictatorship of Stalin and his clique" and also advocated for the return of all expelled party members, including Trotsky.
Differing from Broué's conclusion, former soviet politician Jules Humbert-Droz claimed in his memoirs that Bukharin had formed a bloc with Zinoviev and Kamenev in 1929 and they were planning to use individual terror to remove Stalin from power.
The liberals were a group who were having contact with Trotsky at the time. One remark by Trotsky shows they were extremely important allies:
“Even in a modest way, they have given us more than anyone on a ‘practical’ line, to be sure, and not politically.”
Other letters do not explain what the "liberals" had given to the trotskyists, nor who any of their members were. Broué suggests they were moderate bureaucrats who were led by Sergei Kirov, because of his alleged moderate position against Stalin. J. Arch Getty argues that Kirov was no moderate. He points to the claims of Grigori Tokaev, who was a member of the underground opposition, who said Kirov ruthlessly repressed the opposition and was 'the first executioner'. Trotsky himself called Kirov 'an unscrupulus dictator'. Getty also mentioned that in Kirov's speeches, he ridiculized the opposition and even questioned their humanity. No historian who analysed the bloc has concluded with certainty who 'the liberals' were.
Other groups were also mentioned: the Eismont group, the Sten–Lominadze group and the Safar(ov)–Tarkhan group, but not much is know about them except their mention in Trotsky's letters. It is know that Vissaron Lominadze formed an underground group, called by some "the Left-Right bloc" to oppose Stalin's policy of collectivization.
In the Moscow Trials, the defendants were found guilty of conspiring against Stalin, of having formed a conspiratorial bloc and collaborated with foreign governments. When it was discovered that Trotsky had indeed formed a "bloc" with the opposition in the USSR, like the Soviet government claimed, it put the Trials in a new light. Most historians at the time believed that they were nothing but a campaign to destroy anyone in the party who disagreed with Stalin, but it was clear that it was based on this bloc, albeit exaggeratedly. Trotsky's letters did not contain any evidence of collaboration with foreign powers nor that Trotsky approved of a 'terrorist policy'. Broué concluded the bloc ceased to exist by early 1933, because some of its members, like I.N. Smirnov, Ryutin and the leaders of the Eismont group were arrested and Zinoviev and Kamenev had re-joined the party. Broué later noted that even imprisoned, several opposition members continued participating in an underground Trotskyist group. In early 2018, some documents belonging to this group were discovered by the Russian Federal Prison service in the Verkhne-Uralsk isolator, where certain opposition leaders, like Alexander Slepkov were imprisoned.
Many things are still unknown about the bloc. Mainly because some letters in the Trotsky Letter Archives were missing. The ones that were left had some words 'carefully erased' and one was cut with scissors. Broué and Getty concluded that the missing letters were most likely removed or destroyed.
- Thurston, Robert W. (1996). Life and Terror in Stalin's Russia, 1934-1941 p. 25. Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-06401-8. JSTOR j.ctt32bw0h.
- "Pierre Broué: The "Bloc" of the Oppositions against Stalin (January 1980)". www.marxists.org. Retrieved 2020-08-04.
- "Pierre Broué: The "Bloc" of the Oppositions against Stalin (Appendix)". www.marxists.org. Retrieved 2020-08-04.
- Humbert-Droz, Jules (1971). De Lénine à Staline: Dix ans au service de l'Internationale communiste, 1921-1931.
- Getty, J. Arch. Origins of the Great Purges: The Soviet Communist Party Reconsidered, 1933-1938. pp. 92–95.
- "Leon Trotsky: The Bloc of the Left and the Right (1931)". www.marxists.org. Retrieved 2021-01-08.
- "Cahiers Leon Trotsky vol. 50" (PDF): 121–122 Ante Ciliga section. Cite journal requires
- "[Dossier] The Soviet Left Opposition and the Discovery of the Verkhneuralsk Prison Booklets". Left Voice. Retrieved 2020-08-22.
- Fokin, Alexandr. "Фокин А.А. АЛЬТЕРНАТИВНЫЙ СОВЕТСКИЙ ПРОЕКТ В ДОКУМЕНТАХ "БОЛЬШЕВИКОВ-ЛЕНИНЦЕВ"". [Alternative Soviet Project in the Bolshevik-Leninist Documents].
- Getty, J. Arch (2007-11-06). "Trotsky in exile: The founding of the fourth international". Soviet Studies. 38: 24–35. doi:10.1080/09668138608411620.