The Smell of Factionalism: Left Opposition in the Vyatka Provincial Organization of the Bolshevik Party in 1923-1924

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The activity of the Vyatka left opposition that arose during the internal party discussion in the fall of 1923 and the spring of 1924 is studied. The work is based on archival documents from the Central State Archive of Kirov Region, as well as on materials from the Vyatka Pravda party newspaper. The platform of the local opposition opposed the formation of factions but insisted on clarifying what factionalism is supposed to mean. The Left Opposition united the party community of the provincial city and adjacent working areas. Most party members initially expressed full confidence in the party’s Central Committee. An analysis of archival material shows that the Vyatka opposition tried to establish a broad discussion of problems in internal party life. In the provincial center there was a party discussion club that organized heated discussions. The focus on clarifying the concepts of factions and groups reflected the desire of opposition supporters to avoid being accused of betraying the party and the cause of the revolution. Remarkably, until early January 1924 the left opposition had absolute support among party members in Vyatka. The article analyzes the Central Committee’s suppression of the local opposition in January - February 1924, and in particular the skillful techniques of Aron Solts and his supporters. At the final stage of the struggle, a group of “conciliators” arose among the members of the opposition, and contributed to the victory of the Central Committee line. The article clarifies reasons and circumstances of the defeat of the opposition, none of whose representatives openly stood in opposition to the majority of the Central Committee or called on ordinary members to protest. The authors demonstrate that the local left opposition was a situational unification of diverse forces, dissatisfied with the bureaucratization of the party, the growing dictatorship of the Central Committee, the newcomers, as well as the dominance of appointees from the Party and the Soviets. During the discussion in the organizations of the Party, the need for developing internal party democracy and a free discussion of the problems emerged, showing that there was a potential alternative to Stalinism. The main feature of the left opposition was that it formed and temporarily won the predominantly non-proletarian Vyatka, where before the 1917 revolution the zemstvo and city democratic self-government has gained roots; this is interpreted as a preservation of the demand for freedom and democracy in local society.

About the authors

Yuri N. Timkin

Vyatka State University

Author for correspondence.

Kandidat Istoricheskikh Nauk [Ph.D. in History], Associate Professor of the Department of Theory and History of State and Law

36, Moskovskaya St., Kirov, 610036, Russia


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