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V. I. Lenin
L. D. TROTSKY
From V. I. Lenin, Collected Works, 4th English Edition,
Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1970
Vol. 45, p. 607.
Translated from the Russian
by Yuri Sdobnikov
Prepared © for the Internet by David J. Romagnolo, email@example.com (March 2001)
TO L. D. TROTSKY
Dear Comrade Trotsky:
It is my earnest request that you should undertake the defense of the Georgian case in the Party C.C. This case is now under "persecution" by Stalin and Dzerzhinsky, and I cannot rely on their impartiality. Quite to the contrary. I would feel at ease if you agreed to undertake its defense. If you should refuse to do so for any reason, return the whole case to me. I shall consider it a sign that you do not accept.
With best comradely greetings
<"en765"> The letter is connected with the "Georgian question".
After the October (1922) Plenum of the R.C.P.(B.) Central Committee, there was a sharpening of the conflict between the Transcaucasian Territorial Committee of the R.C.P.(B.) and the Mdivani group (see Note 723). Having met with resistance from the Georgian Communists, the Central Committee of the Communist Party (Bolsheviks) of Georgia, on which the Mdivani group had a majority, resigned on October 22 on the plea of its differences with the Transcaucasian Territorial Committee. Mdivani's supporters lodged a complaint with the R.C.P.(B.) Central Committee. On November 25, 1922, the Politbureau adopted a decision to send a commission to Georgia, with F. E. Dzerzhinsky at its head, to examine urgently the statements by members of the Central Committee of the Georgian Communist Party who had resigned, and to work out measures to establish tranquility in the Georgian Communist Party.
Lenin was highly anxious over the "Georgian Question". On December 12, Dzerzhinsky reported to Lenin the results of his trip. Lenin was dissatisfied with the work of the commission, believing that it had taken a biased approach to the conflict, and had failed to note the grave errors made by G. K. Orjonikidze. Lenin connected the "Georgian question" with the general question of establishing the U.S.S.R., expressing alarm over whether the principles of proletarian internationalism would be consistently implemented in the unification of the Republics. In his letter, "The Question of Nationalities, or 'Autonomisation"', he censured Orjonikidze's action and the connivance at it on the part of the Dzerzhinsky Commission, and of Stalin. Lenin placed the political responsibility for the whole affair chiefly on Stalin, who was the C.C. Secretary General, with reference to his grave mistakes in unifying the Republics (see present edition, Vol. 36, pp. 605-11).
Lenin, far from supporting, in fact criticised the fundamentally erroneous stand of Mdivani and his supporters on various aspects of the Transcaucasian Federation and the formation of the U.S.S.R. (see this volume, Document 777 ["Telegram to K. M. Tsintsadze and S. I. Kavtaradze"]); but considering that at the time the main danger lay in dominant-nation chauvinism, and that the task of fighting the latter was to be shouldered mainly by the Communists of the formerly dominant nation, Lenin concentrated attention on the mistakes made by Stalin, Dzerzhinsky and Orjonikidze on the "Georgian question". He pointed out that in this matter, especially when, in connection with the unification of the Republics, there was need for "particular circumspection, tact and tractability", and that "in this case it is better to overdo the tractability and mildness in treating the national minorities than to underdo them". That is the context in which to view Lenin's words about his being "on the side of the 'offended' in the 'Georgian conflict'" (see this volume, Document 814 ["To P. G. Mdivavi, F. Y. Makharadze and Others"], and also Collected Works, Fifth (Russian) Edition, Vol. 45, p. 486).
Lenin's letter to Trotsky was written in connection with the forthcoming discussion of the "Georgian question" at a Plenum of the R.C.P.(B.) Central Committee. <"en723">
This telegram was sent out in connection with a conflict between the Transcaucasian Territorial Committee of the R.C.P.(B.), headed by G. K. Orjonikidze, and the P. G. Mdivani group in the Communist Party of Georgia (it included K. M. Tsintsadze and S. I. Kavtaradze, to whom Lenin's telegram is addressed).
The Territorial Committee was conducting a fundamentally correct line, working to bring together the Transcaucasian Republics into the Transcaucasian Federation, and resolutely supporting the idea of uniting all the Soviet Republics into a single state. But Orjonikidze did not always display the necessary flexibility and caution in pursuing the nationalities policy, allowed some peremptory actions and haste in putting through some measures, not always considering the views and rights of the Central Committee of the Georgian Communist Party (Bolsheviks). This was used by the Mdivani group, which took a basically wrong approach to the most important aspects of the Party's nationalities policy.
Mdivani and his supporters, constituting a majority on the Georgian Communist Party Central Committee, virtually slowed down the economic and political union of the Transcaucasisn Republics, and were intent, in essence, on keeping Georgia isolated; at first the group opposed the formation of the U.S.S.R., but when the October 1922 Plenum of the R.C.P.(B.) Central Committee adopted its decision to set up the U.S.S.R., they tried to have Georgia enter the U.S.S.R. directly instead of through the Transcaucasian Federation. This played into the hands of the bourgeois nationalists and the Georgian Mensheviks, and at their congresses, conferences and meetings of Party activists, the Georgian Communists justly regarded this as a deviation towards nationalism.
Tsintsadze and a number of other supporters of Mdivani addressed to the R.C.P.(B.) Central Committee a direct wire message, in reply to which Lenin sent the telegram here published.]
<"en766"> This letter was read to Trotsky the same day on the phone by Maria Volodicheva, assistant secretary of the C.L.D. and the C.P.C. On the plea of ill health, Trotsky said he could not undertake such an obligation. [p. 607]