Jules Humbert-Droz on Nikolai Bukharin and the Use of Individual Terror Against Stalin

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“Before leaving I went to see Bukharin for one last time not knowing whether I would see him again upon my return. We had a long and frank conversation. He brought me up to date with the contacts made by his group with the Zinoviev-Kamenev fraction in order to coordinate the struggle against the power of Stalin. I did not hide from him that I did not approve of this liaison of the oppositions. ‘The struggle against Stalin is not a political programme. We had combatted with reason the programme of the Trotskyites on the essential questions, the danger of the kulaks in Russia, the struggle against the united front with the social-democrats, the Chinese problems, the very short-sighted revolutionary perspective, etc. On the morrow of a common victory against Stalin, the political problems will divide us. This bloc is a bloc without principles which will crumble away before achieving any results.’

Bukharin also told me that they had decided to utilise individual terror in order to rid themselves of Stalin. On this point as well I expressed my reservation: the introduction of individual terror into the political struggles born from the Russian Revolution would strongly risk turning against those who employed it. It had never been a revolutionary weapon. ‘My opinion is that we ought to continue the ideological and political struggle against Stalin. His line will lead in the near future to a catastrophe which will open the eyes of the communists and result in a changing of orientation. Fascism menaces Germany and our party of phrasemongers will be incapable of resisting it. Before the debacle of the Communist Party of Germany and the extension of fascism to Poland and to France, the International must change politics. That moment will then be our hour. It is necessary then to remain disciplined, to apply the sectarian decisions after having fought and opposed the leftist errors and measures, but to continue to struggle on the strictly political terrain’.

Bukharin doubtlessly had understood that I would not bind myself blindly to his fraction whose sole programme was to make Stalin disappear. This was our last meeting. It was clear that he did not have confidence in the tactic that I proposed. He also certainly knew better than I what crimes Stalin was capable of. In short, those who, after Lenin’s death and on the basis of his testament, could have destroyed Stalin politically, sought instead to eliminate him physically, when he held firmly in his hand the Party and the police apparatus of the state.”

 – Jules Humbert-Droz, Mémoirs de Jules Humbert-Droz. De Lénine à Staline. Dix ans au service de l’internationale communiste 1921-1931. Neufchâtel: A la Baconnière, 1971, pp. 379-80. Translated from the French by Vijay Singh.

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