Nikolai Bukharin
(Editor of “Pravda”)

The Secret of the League I

Source: The Call, January 22, 1920
Transcription: Ted Crawford
HTML Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2007). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.

The old capitalist world, the whole capitalist world system, is shaken as it has never been before. The fate of the Golden Calf is in the balance; the holy fate of private property, stock exchanges, banks, the fate of stocks and shares, and dividends and rents. The incredible confusion of the capitalist apparatus created by that lack of world economic organisation which has led to the war; the social catastrophe already began; the Communist revolution, the uprising of the proletariat—it is the existence itself of capitalism which these have put in doubt.

It is certain that the capitalist world will make supreme efforts to preserve itself from complete collapse. Such efforts will be made in two directions: (1) The organisation of world capitalism after having eliminated the colossal collisions between the different parts of the capitalist system (the equalisation of the Great Powers); (2) the crushing of the proletariat (the strangulation in common of the Communist revolution).

The final sinister effort of the capitalist world—the last innermost line of its defences is the “League of Nations” of Wilson.


A State of today is an organisation of financial capitalism, in its highest form, in the form of State capitalism: One may, in fact, consider any great power whatever, as it represents not only the political, but also the economic organisation of capital, as “a State capitalist trust.” The whole economic life of the world is ordered by such capitalist State trusts (Great Powers), with a number of other countries dependent on the Great Powers, who drain their resources away. The rivalry between such capitalist State trusts finds its expression in the imperialist war.

Everybody knows that ordinary trusts, competing among themselves, at a certain stage in their development and under certain conditions, will come to an agreement. Such agreements may be merely superficial and transitory intended for the occasion only; but they many also be more stable (syndicates), and may result in the complete fusion of all the undertakings into a single trust.

The problem of the undertstandings between Great Powers may be stated thus: Have the existing circumstances created the conditions necessary for the formation of a combine, of a syndicate, of a trust of the great capitalist trusts?

The first thing is to answer this question. So far, we have had nothing which resembles a syndicate of all the great Powers: nothing but groups of a part. There were two coalitions. Looking at their aims, the satisfaction of a passing need, one may compare them to provisional combines: Nevertheless, by their organisation, “unity of commend,” general economic conferences, political plans in common, they may be likened to syndicates. One of the two coalitions was conquered in the struggle for supremacy. This has transformed international rivalry. New conflicts are approaching: England-America, Japan-America; France-Italy, etc.

What will be the next grouping of the Powers?

Compromises between opponents are generally concluded when there is relative equilibrium between their forces. When one combatant party has the upper hand there is no reason whatever to compromise, for it can take by force without granting any share to its adversaries. From such a point of view, it must seem that there can be no compromises. The colossal superiority of the United States, which is strengthened no less economically and financially than militarily does not admit of doubt. Nevertheless the existing situation does much to reduce this superiority. The heavy weight of the remains of war, and the question of the immediate division of the booty is pressing upon the Allies and America. It is in this question of the dividing of the spoil that the great possibilities of conflict are hidden. May there not immediately arise the occasion for a second world war? Leave aside for a it moment the question of the social impossibility of new war; let us look only at the economic and military conditions. It is clear that the favourable position of America will immediately create a bloc of all the Powers, including Japan, against America. All the European Powers now depend upon America, particularly economically. The exhaustion of Europe is such that without American exports (grain raw materials, machinery, chemicals; etc.) the industry of agriculture of Europe would be faced with disaster. America might conquer allied with Japan, but it is just with Japan that its relations are most strained. Besides, the growth of war industry in America, which was the purveyor of arms to the whole world, has threatened the economic life of the United States. Symptoms of exhaustion can be noticed in the country of the millionaires. Without time to respire and to recover, the capitalist world will disappear: the American tricksters understand that well.

The re-establishment of the capitalist world is not possible except through an intensified acquisition of spoil. Colonies and semi-colonies must be pillaged full steam ahead.

Under such circumstances, an agreement between the master thieves is necessary; it is an assurance against their common downfall. Without it, the capitalist world will soon be at an end.

What will that agreement be?

It will be something intermediate between the provisional combine and the syndicate. Although the agreement will spring from the need to meet a special occasion, it will nevertheless have to provide for the division of markets according to a plan, and a participation of the spoil among the various capitalist State trusts.

In such a syndicate America will play the lead. The little nations will be well received within the “league” as a big shareholder receives a small one whom he is going to swindle. By a similar “freedom of determination”, France will itself be isolated in the League of Nations. (It is exactly for this reason that the French policy declared for the system of the “equilibrium of Powers” and not for the “League”), while the United States will be able to enjoy the fruits of victory in peace.

The attempt to remove the danger of a new and immediate declaration of war, which under the present circumstances would give the finishing blow to the capitalist regime, is therefore practically an attempt at the organisation of world capitalism.

(Concluded next week)