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The Defeat of Trotsky

The Twelfth Party Congress finally convened in April 1923. Lenin's Testament was not read out to the delegates. Instead of fighting the triumvirate, Trotsky posed as the champion of the rank and file against the 'police regime' of the leadership. On 8 October he addressed an Open Letter to the Central Committee accusing it of suppressing democracy in the party (a hypocritical stance perhaps given his own super-centralism in the civil war) and linking this to recent workers' strikes.

Support for Trotsky came from a Group of 46 leading Bolsheviks, whose Declaration formed the basis of the Left Opposition against the triumvirate between 1923 and 1927. Yet this merely gave the party leadership the evidence it needed to accuse Trotsky of breaking Lenin's ban on factions passed in 1921.

At the October Party Plenum Trotsky tried to defend himself against allegations of 'Bonapartism' by recounting how he had rejected Lenin's offer of high office - once in October 1917 (Commissar of the Interior) and again in 1922 (Deputy Chairman of Sovnarkom) - on the grounds that it was unwise to have a Jew in such a senior post. On the first occasion Lenin had dismissed his objection, but on the second he agreed. Trotsky implication was obvious: opposition to him in the party - and Lenin had acknowledged this - stemmed from the fact that he was a Jew.

This made no impression on the delegates. By 102 votes to two the Plenum passed a motion of censure against Trotsky for 'factionalism'. Kamenev and Zinoviev pressed for his expulsion from the party; but Stalin, always eager to appear as the voice of moderation, opposed this and the motion was turned down.

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