Nikolai Bukharin 1915

Toward a Theory of the Imperialist State

Written: in 1915;
Source: “Selected writings on the state and the transition to socialism” , edited by Richard B. Day;
First published: N. Bukharin, “K teorii imperialisticheskogo gosudarstva,” in Revolyutsiya prava: sbornik pervyi. Moscow, 1925.
Transcription: Orestes P.

Many “socialists,” if one may call them such, are consciously undertaking a dizzying “movement to the right.”[1] When viewed in terms of ideology, the action of these “socialists” (whose name is Legion) represents the logical consequence of a whole series of retreats from Marxism. Insignificant at first, such retreats snowball and soon are transformed (according to the “needs” of governments and the “abilities” of the ideologists) from retreats into formal apostasy (vulgo), into betrayal. The most cowardly and hypocritical conceal their flight by repeating the “old” phrases and the old terminology (an example being the Russian Marxist Potresov, who spouts the slogan “Struggle for patriotism”). Others (German social-imperialists such as Heine) appeal directly to the “raison d’état” of Bismarck and the “military reason” of the General Staff. With the passage of time, of course, our sirens all begin to sing the same tune: there is an objective logic at work here, which cannot be reversed once it is set in motion. It is in the nature of our time to raise all tactical questions to unprecedented heights of principle. Today things must be thought through to the end; for what many once took to be “academic scholasticism,” “gray theory,” etc., has now acquired the most pressing, practical significance. And it is precisely for this reason that so many have decided to “relearn.” They were compelled to do so.

Fata volentem ducunt, nolentem trahunt. To evade questions and obscure issues and become conciliatory would be the most hopeless course of all now that the abyss between the tactics (and therefore the theory as well) of Marxism and all shades of reformism has been demonstrated in practice.

Among the general questions that have become particularly acute is the matter of social democracy’s relationship to the state power. This development is explained by two closely related circumstances. In the first place, the imperialist epoch is one of intensified struggle on the part of state-capitalist trusts, with the result that the question of the state’s military might, its “Machtpolitik,” etc., acquires enormous importance. In the second place, this same epoch also gives unprecedented significance to state power in the “internal” life of the peoples, the tentacles of this monster penetrating every crack and embracing every aspect of social life. It is at this very moment – when state power is “murdering and destroying” the peoples for the sake of the business affairs of the ruling classes, when the most acute class struggle must become the slogan of the day for the proletariat of all countries – that the patriotic Gentlemen are putting dots over all of the ‘Is.’ In foreign policy they are becoming the ardent supporters of armaments, and by implication of imperialist slaughter; in domestic policy they are emerging as the apologists of civil peace. Once they adhered to the slogan “Peace for the huts and war upon the palaces! “; now they have another version, “Peace for the palaces and war upon other people’s huts! “ An orientation toward the class interests of the international proletariat has been replaced by an orientation toward the interests of the imperialist state. The onetime priests of freedom, the democrats and the socialists, have prostrated themselves before the boots of the Generals; and it is only in mockery that one can say they “did not lick the feet or even the hands of the strong.” Choking with emotion, they are in fact licking both the hands and the feet of the “strong” with equal zeal.


1) The state as an organization of the ruling classes. 2) The origin of the state. 3) The state as a historical category. Socialist society and the state. 4)The functions of the state. 5) Types of state. The imperialist state as a historical category.

In the social-patriotic literature of all countries a clear reversal of the normal movement of thought can be observed. Concepts and terms that once had a quite precise meaning give way to the “general phrase.” At one time a person had to know how to “differentiate”; today, on the contrary, people prefer to work with the most undifferentiated concepts, such as “nations,” “peoples,” the “interests of the whole,” etc.

To use such general terms is both easier and, for certain purposes, more convenient. Thus, it becomes necessary to reiterate the old truths, which at one time were commonplace, in order to repel the insufferable, quasi-theoretical rubbish confronting the reading public on all sides. The question of the imperialist state must be prefaced by the question of the nature of the state in general, and that is where we shall begin.

Definitions of the state are endless in number. We shall ignore all those theories that see in the state some sort of teleological or metaphysical “essence,” “the reality of the moral idea” (Hegel), etc. Equally uninteresting for us are the numerous definitions given by jurists, who approach the state from the limited viewpoint of formal-juridical dogma and thus end up, for the most part, in a vicious circle – defining the state in terms of law, and law in terms of the state. Such “theories” provide nothing in the way of positive knowledge, for they are devoid of a sociological foundation and hang in the air. The state can be understood only as a social phenomenon. Therefore, one must know its social nature, its social functions, its genesis; in other words, what we need is a sociological theory of the state. Marxism provides just such a theory. From the Marxist point of view, the state is nothing but the most general organization of the ruling classes, its basic function being to preserve and expand the exploitation of the oppressed classes. The state is a relationship among people – a relationship of domination, power, and enslavement. It is true that the famous Code of Hammurabi, as early as about two and a half thousand years B.C., announced the purpose of the state to be “the establishment of law within the country, the elimination of wickedness and evil, in order that the strong shall not harm the weak.”[2] It is also true that this ancient lie prevails even to the present day, that all teachings concerning the “purpose of the state” are nothing but repetitions of this lie. “State order (Ordnung) and laws exist not for the benefit of the rulers (des Herrschers), not in order to preserve and multiply their personal wealth, but for the benefit of the ruled.”[3] The whip exists not for the benefit of the gentleman, but for the education of the slave – such is the thesis of bourgeois science in our own day. Of course, in reality things are quite different. To the extent that the organizations of state power are constructed according to a plan and are consciously regulated (something that occurs only at a certain stage in the state’s development), to the extent, in other words, that one can speak of the state’s having a purpose, that purpose must be defined by the interests of the ruling classes and their interests alone. This situation is by no means contradicted by the fact that the state fulfils, and has fulfilled, a variety of socially useful functions. The latter are simply a necessary condition, the conditio sine qua non for the existence of state power. Thus, the “socially useful activities” of the state are essentially the conditions for prolonging and promoting to the utmost the exploitation of the enslaved classes of contemporary society, above all, of the proletariat. In their politics the ruling classes are guided by certain calculations, and the principle of the economy of forces prevails within the state organization as well. The state builds railways, undertakes irrigation works, erects schools, etc. Why ? Because this is the only way to facilitate the further development of capitalist relations, to ensure that a greater mass of values is created and flows into the pocket of the capitalist class, to guarantee that the process of exploitation will proceed even more smoothly and quietly. The state undertakes a number of sanitary measures, comes forth as the “protector of labor” (factory legislation, etc.). Why? Again, not because the enslaved proletarians have pretty eyes, but because it is profitable for the ruling class, under certain conditions, to take this approach. The ruling class acts either in its own direct interest (e.g., the contemporary state is interested in good soldierly material and therefor occasionally has nothing against measures that somewhat retard national degeneration), or else out of strategic considerations in the class struggle against the oppressed. In the latter case the state power makes concessions because otherwise the process of exploitation would not proceed so smoothly. In this case the governing principle is still the interests of the ruling classes, which are merely hidden under a pseudonym – the interests of the “nation,” the “people,” the “whole.” And the state is still the organization “of the most powerful, economically dominant class, which, through the medium of the state, becomes also the politically dominant class and thus acquires new means of holding down and exploiting the oppressed class.”[4]

As the most general organization of the ruling class, the state arises in the process of social differentiation. It is the product of class society. The process of class stratification, in turn, is mainly the product of economic development. It must be emphasized that the breakup of society into classes is by no means a consequence of naked force on the part of foreigners, as certain sociologists (Gumplowicz, Oppenheimer) claim, repeating for the most part what was said by the notorious Duhring. However radical that theory might appear to be, in reality it is both reactionary and, what is more important, false. Without going too far into a detailed criticism of such trends of thought, in view of their proximity to Marxism we consider it necessary to say a few words. Here is how Franz Oppenheimer defines the “historical state”:

In terms of its form and content the historical state can be defined as follows: With respect to form it is an institution (Rechtsinstitution) imposed by a victorious group upon a subjugated group. Its content is the planned exploitation (Bewirtschaftung) of the lower group by the upper group, in accordance with the principle of the least (political) expenditure (des kleinsten politischen Mittels). (This is O.’s way of applying the principle of the economy of forces outside of the sphere of purely economic relations. – N.B.) In other words, its content is the unpaid (unentgeltene) appropriation of the greatest possible share of the labor product (of the lower group – N.B.) with the least expenditure on the part of the other group, an appropriation designed to last for the longest possible period of time.[5] “In its origin the state is exclusively – and by virtue of its essence, in the early stages of development it is mainly – a social institution, forcefully imposed by a victorious group of people.”[6]

Classes “are created by political (i.e. non-economic – N.B.) means, as shown by historical and ethnographic reasoning; and they can have been created only politically.”[7]

According to Oppenheimer, therefore, classes are simply the transformed groups of victors and vanquished and are not at all the necessary offspring of economic development. In this theory of “the origin of the classes” there is but one truth – that the concrete history of human society has been one of force and plunder. But that one truth far from exhausts the subject. In reality, “lawful” institutions (the state) and productive relations of a definite type (slavery, for instance) could appear and be maintained only where a sufficient basis was provided by the economic life of the groups involved. This basis did in fact exist: we are speaking of economic differentiation in connection with the growth of the division of labor and private property.[8] It follows that even if there had been no invasion from without, the logic of economic development would have nonetheless led to the emergence of dominant classes and their common organization, the state. Recent history provides an illustration of such a development – we have in mind the United States of America. It is true that the embryo of North American feudalism and a landed aristocracy is frequently underestimated.[9] Nevertheless, the evolution of capitalist relations in America would be utterly incomprehensible were one to accept Oppenheimer’s view, for in this case the process of the emergence of state power from within, by way of social differentiation, growing class antagonisms, etc., is perfectly clear.[10]

The apparent radicalism of such theoretical constructions is blatantly apologetic in origin. The real issue is to save the foundations of a commodity economy. The logic goes like this: contemporary slavery arose through conquest and the establishment of “property by force” (Gewalteigentum – a term put into circulation by Dühring) in land. With monopolization of the land there also arises the class monopoly of capital, thanks to the proletarianization of the masses, who are deprived of the main means of production. Landed and capitalist property find their expression in the state, in this political instrument of oppression, which is the historical prius in relation to the economy. Destroy “property by force” in the land (“internal colonization”), and then a “strong peasantry” will emerge, the army of unemployed will disappear, and the profit of the capitalists will decline so far as to make it useless for them to continue their activities. Hired labor will disappear, and by a perfectly painless route society will be converted into a society of free citizens, peacefully trading with each other and selling everything “in accordance with justice.” The state will wither away, leaving “free citizenship” (“Freibtirgerschaft”). Such is the “Liberal socialism” of Oppenheimer[11]. Of course, this is a complete and reactionary utopia, for the appearance of capitalist relations of domination does not necessarily presuppose non-economic pressure and conquests. And in order to eliminate exploitation, far more is needed than “internal colonization” – namely, elimination of both the private and the collective property of the ruling classes (including that of the landlords, the industrialists, the finance capitalists, etc.). Thus, every genuinely revolutionary theory must look to the root of things (radikal sein -ist die Sache an der Wurzelfassen – wrote Marx), not stop with an explanation of everything through conquest alone, but look instead for the final cause of changes in the social-economic structure. “The state no means a power forced on society from without. ... Rather, it is a Product of society at a certain stage of development...”[12]

If one finds the constituent symbol of the state, its “essence,” in the fact that it is the general organization of the ruling class, then it becomes perfectly clear why the state is viewed as a historical category. This was precisely the view of Marx and Engels. They never saw the state as a social organ that would be needed at every stage of development. In the same way that capital, for Marx, is not a thing, a means of production in und fur sich, but a social relationship finding expression in a thing, so the essence of the state is found not in its technical-administrative role, but in the relationship of domination that it hides.[13] And because the relationship of domination is based on class differentiation, with the disappearance of classes the state also disappears. The state has, in consequence, both a historical beginning and a historical end.

“Even radical and revolutionary politicians” – writes Marx – “look for the source of evil not in the existence of the state, but in a certain form of the state, in place of which they want to establish another form.”[14] Engels expresses himself even more forcefully: “All socialists are agreed” – he writes – “that the political state, and with it political authority, will disappear as a result of the coming social revolution, that is, that public functions will lose their political character and be transformed into the simple administrative functions of watching over the true interests of society “[15] In Anti-Duhring Engels declares that in socialist society the state “withers away.” In The Origins of the Family he gives the prognosis:

We are now rapidly approaching a stage in the development of production at which the existence of these (ruling – N.B.) classes not only will have ceased to be a necessity but will become a positive hindrance to production. They will fall as inevitably as they arose at an earlier stage. Along with them the state will inevitably fall. The society that organizes production on the basis of a free and equal association of producers will put the whole machinery of state where it will then belong: in the Museum of Antiquities, beside the spinning wheel and the bronze axe.”[16]

The excerpts cited here are not at all fortuitous. On the contrary, they clearly express the specific uniqueness of Marxist theory, the historicity of the Marxist method, which looks upon social phenomena not as eternal and unchanging categories, but as transient phenomena, arising and disappearing with certain conditions of social life. This is not a question of terminology, as some writers try to demonstrate,[17] any more than whether the “savage’s walking stick” can be called capital is a question of terminology. For Marx the criterion of differentiation, the logical fundamentum divisions of social categories, was a different type of relations among people as opposed to a fetishistic distortion of “superficial phenomena.” Marx’s task was to explain social development as a process by which different types of these relations (or socio-economic structures) were replaced in accordance with laws. In an analogous manner he approached the question of the state, seeing it as the political expression of a vast social-historic-economic structure – or of class society. And just as contemporary bourgeois economics, being deeply static and anti-historical, cannot understand this specific viewpoint of Marx concerning economic categories, so bourgeois sociologists and jurists cannot understand the Marxist view of the state. “The theory of Marx” – writes Gumplowicz, for example – “contains a new and, for the most part (grosstenteils), correct view of the state.” But, continues this author: “socialism makes a terrible mistake by suggesting that when the state ‘becomes at last the genuine representative of the whole of society’ (as it previously claimed to be), it ‘renders itself redundant.’”[18] That is how the “radical” Gumplowicz talks. His faculty colleagues are already unable to understand Marx ex officio.[19]

Thus, the society of the future is a society without a state organization. Despite what many people say, the difference between Marxists and anarchists is not that the Marxists are statists whereas the anarchists are anti-statists. The real difference in views of the future structure is that the socialists see a social economy resulting from the tendencies of concentration and centralization, the inevitable companions of development of the productive forces, whereas the economic utopia of the decentralist-anarchists carries us back to pre-capitalist forms. The socialists expect the economy to become centralized and technologically perfected; the anarchists would make any economic progress whatever impossible. The form of state power is retained only in the transitional moment of the dictatorship of the proletariat, a form of class domination in which the ruling class is the proletariat. With the disappearance of the proletarian dictatorship, the final form of the state’s existence disappears as well.

As we mentioned above, the basic function of the state organization consists of supporting and extending the process of exploitation. In this regard two types of relations can be distinguished: either the state organization is one of direct exploitation – in which case the state appears as a union of capitalists, owning its own enterprises (e.g., railways, the monopolistic production of one or another product, etc.) – or, alternatively, the state organization takes part in the process of exploitation indirectly, as an auxiliary mechanism for the support and maximal extension of conditions suitable for the exploitative process. In the first case, insofar as we are speaking of productive labor, the state directly absorbs the surplus value created in its own sphere of activity; in the second case, it appropriates a portion of the surplus value created in branches of production that lie beyond the sphere of direct state control, relying on taxes and so forth. In the latter event it is normal for the state to extract a portion not merely of the surplus value but also of the wages (and where other categories of “labor incomes” exist, a portion of these as well). In concrete reality, both these patterns coexist, although the proportionate relation between them is subject to change and depends on the level of historical development that has been attained.

Support for the exploitative process and its extension occur in two directions: externally, beyond the limits of the state’s territory, and internally, or within these limits. The external policy of the state organization expresses the struggle to divide the surplus value being produced in a world context (and the struggle for a surplus product, insofar as a non-capitalist world exists). This struggle is played out among the different state-organized groups of the ruling classes.

The internal policy of the state organization expresses the struggle of the ruling classes for a share in the values being created (or product) through systematic suppression of all attempts at emancipation on the part of the oppressed classes. “The spheres of state activity” (Loening) serve these same two purposes: “the sphere of external control” protects the external interests of the ruling class; “the sphere of justice” supports the legal norms that bind the oppressed classes hand and foot. The so-called “civil law” defends the sacred principle of property; “state law” supports the political enslavement of the oppressed, being the political form of economic domination; and the sphere of “internal control” (“police,” in the broad sense of the word), in addition to its socially useful functions, whose real significance we discussed earlier, is aimed directly against the internal enemy. The sphere of “military administration” provides the decisive argument in the struggle both with other state organizations and with the rebellious people. Finally, there is a sphere of “financial management,” or the art of acquiring “state revenues” for the preservation and extension of the state organization, for its military apparatus in the first place. (The bourgeoisie utters a sacred truth through the lips of the German imperialist Delbruck: “Where, in the final analysis, does real power lie ? It lies in arms. The decisive question concerning the internal character of the state is therefore always: To whom does the army belong?”)[20]

But these general propositions with respect to the class character of the state do not touch upon the question of concrete historical types of state organization. Nevertheless, in creating a certain type of productive relations, economic evolution also creates the appropriate type of state organization. A feudal organization of the state, for instance, differs in general from a capitalist one. Moreover, even within the limits of capitalism – as it passes in sequence through the phase of commercial, industrial, and eventually finance capital – important changes can be detected in the state superstructure. Our epoch, the epoch of finance capitalism, creates specific relations both within and between states. Just as it creates new relations of a sharply expressed historical character, so this new epoch also gives a new form to state power. In what follows we shall attempt an exposition of the character of this state power.


1) Reinforcing the role of state power. 2) The state and the production of products (the domain lands, forestry, state factories, state monopolies, “mixed enterprises,” state control and mobilization of industry). 3) The state and the process of circulation (the state and the means of circulation: railways, telegraph, telephone, underwater cables; commercial monopolies, state banks and banking concerns; the organization of credit; state loans; state control in the sphere of distribution, etc.). 4) Foreign economic policy and state power. 5) The centralization process within a state-capitalist trust. 6) Militarism and militarization of the economy; the so-called war socialism.

Even the most superficial glance at socio-economic life demonstrates the colossal growth in the economic significance of the state. In particular, this growth can be seen in the expansion of the state budget. The complicated apparatus of a modern state organization demands monstrous expenditures, which increase with shocking rapidity. Here are the data:

(millions of marks)
(millions of francs)
Great Britain
The United States
(millions of lira)
Russia [28]
1891-95 – 1,553.0 1893 – 3,359.7 1900 – 143,687,068 1900 – 487,713,792 1898-99 – 812
1901-05 – 2,253.1 1907 – 3,882.323 1910 – 157,944,611 1910 – 659,705,391 1906-07 – 1,945.9
1907 – 2,809.8 1908 – 4,020.5 1911 – 171,995,667 1911 – 654,137,998 1909-10 – 2,602.1
1908 – 2,784.8 [21] 1909 – 4,186.0 1912 – 178,545,100 1912 – 654,553,963 1910-11 – 2,833.1
1911 – 2,897.4 1910 – 4,321.9 1913 – 188,624,930 1913 – 682,770,705 1911-12 – 2,949.0
1912 – 2,893.3 1911 – 4,547.9 1914 – 197,492,969[25] 1914 – 700,254,489[26] 1912-13 – 3,252.027
1913 – 3,520.9 [22] 1912 – 4,742.7[24]

Since the 1890s, therefore, Germany has increased its budgetary expenditures by 126%; France, by 41%. In Great Britain and the United States the increase since 1900 has been 37% (England) and 44% (the USA). The budget of Italy has grown since the end of the ‘90s by 67%. And then there is Russia.

Just how large the volume of state expenditures is relative to those of the population can be seen from the following table (compiled on the basis of income-tax statistics for Prussia):[29]

  Millions of marks Percent
State expenditures 2,323 13
Community expenditures (more than 10,000 inhabitants) 918 5
Community expenditures for productive purposes 1,856 11
Personal expenditures by the bourgeoisie 2,784 16
Expenditures by the popular masses 9,616 55

The state and the largest municipalities accounted for approximately 20%, or one-fifth, of all expenditures.

As one aspect of imperialist policy, which in turn results from the specific structure of finance capitalism, militarism plays an enormous role in such budgetary increases. But we are not speaking simply of militarism in the narrow sense of the word. A further cause is the growing interference of the power of the state in every realm of social life, beginning with production and ending with the highest forms of ideological creativity. The pre-imperialist period was that of liberalism, which was the political expression of industrial capitalism and was characterized by non-intervention on the part of state power. The formula of laissez-faire was a symbol of faith within the leading circles of the bourgeoisie, who left everything to the “free play of economic forces.” Our own time, by contrast, is characterized by exactly the opposite tendency, the logical limit of which is state capitalism, or the inclusion of absolutely everything within the sphere of state regulation.

In order to ascertain the most general sources of this statification we must keep in mind the tendencies of finance-capitalist development. The organizational process, which embraces more and mere branches of the “national economy” through the creation of combined enterprises and through the organizational role of the banks, has led to the conversion of each developed “national system” of capitalism into a “state-capitalist trust.”[30]

On the other hand, the process of development of the productive forces of the world economy drives these “national” systems into the most acute conflicts in their competitive struggle for the world market. These two basic facts of contemporary capitalist reality provide us with the key to understanding the “state” tendencies of contemporary finance capitalism. Why was the bourgeoisie really so individualistic in the past? Principally because the basic category of economic life was the private-economic unit, which confronts all the others as a competitor. The interrelation of people, or the internal structure of the bourgeoisie as a class, was analogous to this interrelation among enterprises. As a class the bourgeoisie came out against the proletariat. But internally, within the limits of the class itself, each member stood opposed to the other as a competitor: Homo homini lupus est. Each hoped to unseat his opponent by relying upon his own forces, the interplay between them being positive for the “whole.” But it was not only separate enterprises and individual people who emerged as the bearers of individualism. The division of the ruling classes into different groups also played an analogous role: above all the division into a landed and an industrial bourgeoisie, followed by lesser divisions between the representatives of raw material production and manufacturers, commercial and usurer capital, etc. The epoch of finance capital puts an end to this state of affairs. Above all else, the individual private enterprise disappears as the cell of the capitalist organism and the basis of capitalist individualism. Moreover, the contradiction between different subgroups of the ruling classes also largely disappears. By collaborating with one another, almost every category of the bourgeoisie is transformed into the recipients of dividends, the category of interest becoming the general form of expression for all so-called “nonlabor incomes.” The holy of holies for every bourgeois (and landlord) becomes the bank to which he and his kind are tied by a thousand threads.

Thus, a system of collective capitalism is created, which to a certain extent is opposed to the entire structure of capitalism in its earlier forms. The separate capitalist disappears: he becomes a Verbandskapitalist,[31] a member of an organization; he no longer competes, but instead cooperates with his “compatriots”; for the center of gravity in the competitive struggle is carried over into the world market, whereas within the country competition dies out. Such a structure of the ruling classes is accompanied by a corresponding change in the “state machine”: the state power becomes the supreme organization of the finance-capitalist bourgeoisie, who constitute a homogeneous group. The financial oligarchy rules the trusts; the financial oligarchy rules the country. This is simply another organization of one and the same clique. It is understandable that in these circumstances the earlier opposition to the idea of “state socialism” (i.e., state capitalism) should vanish. By transferring management of the state-capitalist trust to a formally independent state (we have in mind economic regulation) in exchange for a guaranteed income, finance capital changes nothing essential. But it can expect certain advantages. These advantages are tied directly to the imperialist policy. We have already noticed that external competition begins to play an enormous role. The instruments of such competition are not only dumping and purely economic pressure but also the pressure of armed force – of war, in the final analysis. Hence the question of military might. Contemporary warfare differs completely from the wars of previous times: from an economic viewpoint the issue is no longer just where to acquire the money, but one of financial and industrial mobilization – a question of converting a “peacetime economy” into a “war economy” (Friedenswirtschaft und Kriegswirtschaft). “In economic terms war used to be a problem of state finances. But now the state is omnipotent. Thus, its operation does not appear outwardly in the form of an enterprise (Unternehmung), and it no longer faces a financial-economic problem, or a problem of money; instead the natural substance of the entire national economy is mobilized for war.”[32] The question of mobilizing the entire “natural-economic substance” is one of an organization directly subordinated to the control of the state power. The more organized the state-capitalist trust, the greater the intervention of state power, the larger the share of output by the state’s own enterprises, and the more powerful the role of state banks, which regulate the circulation of money and credit, the more battle-worthy is this gigantic unit and the greater are the profits expected by the fortunate citizens of the glorious fatherland. “Per Sozialismus gehort zu den Mitteln der ‘Kriegsfuhrung’” (“Socialism in an instrument for the conduct of war”), exclaims the socialist renegade Edmund Fisher, taking the extreme form of state intervention to represent socialism.[33]

Such are the most general causes of the “change of attitude” among the leading representatives of bourgeois “public opinion.” The remaining opposition to “statification” comes from the ranks of commercial capital, a branch of activity whose importance is declining and whose functions become redundant given direct control by the state.

The war has caused state-capitalist relations of production to mature rapidly. War is accompanied not only by tremendous destruction of productive forces: in addition, it provides an extraordinary reinforcement and intensification of capitalism’s immanent developmental tendencies. There is no doubt that the war has caused an entire “industrial revolution” and has revolutionized (in this conditional sense) the economic foundation, destroying with colossal speed those capitalist relations that had already become outdated. Of course, many of these changes were due to the specific needs and tasks of the war, and will die out as soon as the protracted, superhuman massacre comes to an end. But many will also remain, for in the form of state-capitalist trusts and under threat of its own destruction, capitalism must inevitably approach an epoch of one war after another.[34]

Let us begin with changes in the basic sphere of economic life, that of production.

From the early epoch of capitalism and continuing right through the stage of industrial capitalism certain rudimentary forms have persisted that can now be absorbed as living cells of the state economy. We have in mind the domain lands, the forest industry, and state factories. Compared with the sphere lying beyond the possessions of the state, these forms are numerically insignificant. But the state forest industry is of considerable importance. Take the German data as an illustration. In 1900 timber was distributed among the different categories of ownership as follows:

Crown timber State timber Timber owned
jointly by the
state and others
257,302 4,430,090 29,793 2,258,090
Institutions Associations Private Total [35]
211,015 306,214 6,503,365 13,995,869

The mining industry should also be noted, for here, too, the state has retained a certain position.

Much more important, however, are the ever-multiplying attempts to establish state monopolies in the realm of production. There can be no doubt that this type of state intervention has the most “brilliant” future. To the general considerations we have already mentioned another must be added, having acquired particular significance during the war. We have in mind the need for an enormous increase in state revenues. The costs of the war are so enormous (including payment of state debts, interest payments on state loans, assistance to the wounded and orphans, etc., reconstruction of the depleted military apparatus on an expanded scale, etc.) that to cover them over a period of several years will require, and is already requiring, a total reconstruction of the state budget. At a minimum the income of the warring states must be increased twofold, possibly more. The immediate problem of state finances therefore assumes colossal and unprecedented dimensions. As a rule, state revenues can be classified according to the following categories: revenues from the state’s own enterprises (e.g., the forest industry, mining, state factories, railways, etc.), direct taxes, indirect taxes (including tariffs), and state monopolies. Revenues from the state’s own enterprises are relatively small; direct taxes are objectionable to the bourgeoisie; and an increase in indirect taxes (and tariffs), which all governments practice con amore, meets with the stubborn resistance of the proletariat.[36] Nothing remains but recourse to the introduction of state monopolies over the production of a number of products: the tobacco monopoly, monopoly in the production of cigars and cigarettes, monopolies in alcoholic beverages, kerosene, matches, electrical energy, coal and iron, potassium, gas for lighting, certain metals, etc. These are the branches of production in which monopolization encounters the least difficulties and has already occurred in several states.

Monopolization is also to be expected in war industry, that is, the industries working for the army and the navy (building battleships, cannon, etc.). Unproductive from the viewpoint of social development, this branch of production will grow in importance. Far from the “ultra-imperialist” idyll of Kautsky, we face a period of more acute competition on the part of state-capitalist trusts.[37] The transitional form between the “private capitalist enterprise” (or trust) and the pure type of state enterprise is the so-called “mixed enterprise” (“gemischte Betriebe”). Recently this form has begun to appear with growing frequency, and there is every likelihood that it will spread rapidly. Essentially the state cooperates here with a private capitalist enterprise or, more often, with a capitalist organization (a trust, syndicate, cartel, etc.). The merger is achieved through “share holding” (or “participation”): the state purchases a portion of the shares of the enterprise in question, the balance being held by the usual trust. Thus, the state and an entrepreneurial economic organization become co-owners of one and the same productive unit. Over the course of time this intermediate type will understandably give way to the pure form of state enterprise. The mechanism for this process is very simple: either the state becomes the owner of a growing portion of the shares, or else the shareholders are converted into mere recipients of a certain fixed income, being prevented from interfering directly in the production process, which is left to the control of the enlightened and appropriately trained imperialist bureaucracy.[38]

These are the basic and most established forms of state intervention in the sphere of production. There is a multiplicity of other measures that, to a greater or lesser degree, curtail the “free disposal” of private property. Although these measures by no means cause a loss in all cases for the aforesaid property owners, they do place production under control of the all-seeing eyes of the state. In the case of every belligerent country, those enterprises working for so-called “national defense” have been subjected to such control. In Germany, where the English blockade has increased the tendency toward regulation of the economy to an extreme , this control has been extended to several other production branches.[39] If, for example, a special ‘’Reichsverteilungstelle’’ not only distributes the finished product – sugar, shall we say – but also determines precisely how much sugar must be produced, by what date, and where to deliver it, then, under these conditions, the arbitrariness of the private entrepreneur or syndicate gives way to “state discretion.” We have, in consequence, a limitation on production and sales. Occasionally the state goes further and joins the different production groups together in a single complex for the sake of greater production planning (as was the case, for instance, in the German coal industry).[40] Finally, there is an infinite number of rules that regulate the production process itself (requiring a certain method of production, the use of specified raw materials, etc.). “All of these measures” – to quote Professor Hatchek – “convert the producer and the seller into social functionaries” (the worthy professor neglects only to mention the indecent “compensation” these syndicated “social functionaries” receive).

In these ways state power absorbs virtually every branch of production. Not only does it preserve the general conditions of the exploitative process but, in addition, the state increasingly becomes a direct exploiter, organizing and directing production as a collective, joint capitalist.

A similar process can be observed in the sphere of circulation.

Let us begin by considering the technical-material framework of the circulation process: the railways, telegraph, telephone, underwater cables, and the postal organization as a whole.

Here “statification” occurred earlier than in other areas. The reasons for statification of the railways were typical. Beside the economic reasons (the enormity of the capital to be advanced, the low rate of profit at the outset, etc.), both fiscal and military-strategic motives were operative. Although much later than other countries, England brought the railways under the Treasury, owing to the influence of the “great war.” As with protectionism, the creation of a standing army, the curtailment of individual freedoms, and so forth, the transition was also made to a state railway industry. The relative “weight” of state railways as a percentage of total track length is as follows: Belgium, 90.8%; Germany, 92.5%; Denmark, 55.6%; Italy, 77.8%; the Netherlands, 56.3%; Norway, 84.2%; Austria, 80.4%; European Russia, 65.5%; Switzerland, 71.9%; etc. France, Portugal, and Sweden have railways of the “mixed” type. As for the telegraph, only in America does a private telegraph play a major role, state telegraphs being the norm elsewhere. The cable network is mainly in the hands of private companies, but the state’s share is growing. There can be no doubt that the influence of the war is very forceful in this respect: in the name of “national defense,” and so forth, an energetic policy of statification is being implemented in all of these branches.

The skeleton of the circulatory process is therefore largely in the hands of the state. But the very process of circulation is itself passing more and more into state hands. Consider, for example, state trade monopolies. Generally speaking, these monopolies were introduced for the same reasons as those in the sphere of production: from a negative viewpoint, the growing “collectivist” character of capitalist relations; more positively, the financial and strategic considerations that compel the bourgeoisie to centralize economic relations at the level of the “fatherland.” In cases in which a production monopoly is difficult to establish, for one reason or another, the state assumes the exclusive right to sell the particular product and to set its own prices.

There is no doubt that trade monopolies represent a step toward further intrusion of state control into the realm of production. The only difference is that in this case intervention begins, so to speak, at the other end.

The joint-stock form of enterprise adds the possibility in this sphere as well of creating “mixed” enterprises, whose shareholders are public-law institutions (the state, municipalities), on the one side, and commercial-industrial organizations, on the other. In time of war a similar role is being played in Germany by the numerous “Kriegsrohstoffgesellschaften” (“war material societies”), which have complete authority (under the control of state power) to centralize all available supplies of different types of goods and to distribute them in accordance with definite regulations, established either by the state (e.g., rubber, benzine, metals, leather, etc.) or by “Reichsverteilungsstellen” (“imperial allocation offices”), which handle the allocation of commodities throughout the empire. Numerous organizations are obliged to supply commodities; others are obliged to accept them; and prices are fixed by the state. Finally, an extreme form of state intervention is the system of confiscation (consider, for instance, the activity of the German government in supplying the population with food products and the so-called “food dictatorship”). Here, too, several syndicate organizations cooperate with the organs of state and local government. As a result, the anarchic commodity market is largely replaced by organized distribution of the product, the ultimate authority again being state power.

Of course, many of these forms must also die out with the advent of normal conditions for the economic process. The dreams of certain ideologists of imperialism (dreams of so-called “Magasinierung,” or the establishment of gigantic state warehouses of different kinds of products with the simultaneous near-isolation of the state economy – in short, dreams of economic “autarky”) are absolutely Utopian.[41] But the general tendency of growing intervention by the state remains, even though its theoretical limits are impossible to establish.

If we turn now from the circulation of commodities to the circulation of money and the sphere of credit, we find the exact same process. The need for the state to regulate the entire process of monetary circulation is also made dramatically evident in time of war. Financial mobilization presupposes the colossal might of state central banks, which gather up virtually the entire gold supply of the country. The concrete constellation of monetary circulation depends primarily on the policy of the state bank, the quantity of notes it puts into circulation, etc. The same is true of credit relations. In Germany the state bank has also been supported by the “loan offices” (Darlehenskassen), which are subordinate to the bank and were specially created for the war. Besides accepting all manner of paper securities, these state institutions are also designed to grant credit, commodities[42] being accepted as security. Thus, something in the nature of a mutual guarantee, or an ever-expanding “community of interests,” arises between the state power and different circles of the bourgeoisie, as the representatives of economic life. Within the same sphere this mutual guarantee might take many different forms. The role of state loans is especially important. (The “success” of internal loans is highly dependent on one condition, namely, that capital cannot find areas for investment because the productive base has been narrowed owing to the war. Analysis of the sources of the payments makes it clear that the “popular” character of this success is pure fantasy.) If the capitalists give up their capital to the state, they also become shareholders in the whole aggregate of state enterprises, in the broad sense of the word; for the fixed rate of interest they receive represents a portion of the state’s general revenues. The more extensive the internal loan operations are, the more closely are all the branches of production tied economically to the state power. This tie originates and is accomplished in the sphere of circulation. The supreme regulator is the state bank.

It is interesting that the structure of the latter institution is not the same in all countries. In some cases there is a purely state institution; in others, an enterprise of the “mixed type.” The German Imperial Bank is one of a mixed nature. As a joint-stock society it is directed by state officials, who are appointed by the Emperor on the advice of the Bundesrat.[43] The “nature” of this bank has even given rise to several theoretical discussions on the theme of whether it is a state institution – that is, whether it is an institution of a public-law nature or a simple joint-stock company of a private-law nature.

In this connection we should also remember the so-called regulation of consumption. In fact, this sphere belongs entirely to circulation. It is a process of distributing goods, not of consuming them, for the latter lies beyond the limits of any economic investigation. We have in mind as well the numerous ration cards and other measures: cards for bread, butter, meat, etc.

In certain countries the intervention of state power has assumed enormous dimensions. In Germany it has led to regulated distribution of all food products and to “communist” mass meals (“Massenspeisungen”). This type of state intervention, however, is the least stable; and there is no doubt that it will disappear with the end of the war and overcoming Germany’s economic isolation.

It remains for us to look at the state’s foreign economic policy. Under this heading belong, first and foremost, all possible types of prohibitions and limitations on imports and exports, including the entire system of tariff policy, trade agreements, support for “national industries” abroad, premiums of all sorts, the search for concessions and profitable lending opportunities, etc., plus direct plunder, or seizing the territory of someone else’s “fatherland” for monopolistic exploitation by one’s “own” finance capital, which is the essence of an imperialist policy.

Now let us summarize. In total contrast to the state in the epoch of industrial capitalism, the imperialist state is characterized by an extraordinary increase in the complexity of its functions and by an impetuous incursion into the economic life of society. It reveals a tendency to take over the whole productive sphere and the whole sphere of commodity circulation. Intermediate types of mixed enterprises will be replaced by pure state regulation, for in this way the centralization process can advance further. All the members of the ruling classes (or, more accurately, of the ruling class, for finance capitalism gradually eliminates the different subgroups of the ruling classes, uniting them in a single finance-capitalist clique) become shareholders, or partners in a gigantic state-enterprise.[44] From being the preserver and defender of exploitation, the state is transformed into a single, centralized, exploiting organization that is confronted directly by the proletariat, the object of exploitation. In the same way as market prices are determined by the state, the workers are assigned a ration sufficient for the preservation of labor power. A hierarchically constructed bureaucracy fulfils the organizing functions in complete accord with the military authorities, whose significance and power steadily grow. The national economy is absorbed into the state, which is constructed in a military fashion and has at its disposal an enormous, disciplined army and navy. In their struggle the workers must confront all the might of this monstrous apparatus, for their every advance will be aimed directly against the state: the economic and the political struggle cease to be two categories, and the revolt against exploitation will signify a direct revolt against the state organization of the bourgeoisie.

All of these developments lie in the near future, unless a social catastrophe occurs before the pure type of economic relations we have been describing can take shape.

It is easy to qualify in socio-economic terms the mode of production whose undeveloped form is represented by the contemporary Kriegssozialismus, i.e., the militarization of almost every branch of industry. Many bourgeois theorists speak of state socialism. Professor Krahmann, for example, whom we have cited previously, writes:

The powerful influence of all the means currently employed to support the state and defend the Fatherland, means that have been adopted by the state out of military considerations, will be to move us . .. much nearer to state socialism. But this change will not occur in the way which some have dreaded and for which others have hoped. This is not a loose international, but a nationally consolidated, socialism that we are approaching. It is not a democratic communism; still less is it an aristocratic class government: it is a nationalism that reconciles classes [45]

And the revisionist E. Fisher, in addition to claiming that “Socialism is essentially nothing but the carrying over of the state idea (Staatsgedankens) into the national economy and social life in general,” tries his utmost to find socialism, referring to monopolization of the various branches of production with such strange names as “electrical socialism,” “water socialism,” and so forth.[46] These misleading phrases obscure the reality of the matter, namely, that in “war socialism” class contradictions not only persist but reach their maximum intensity. In the ideal type of imperialist state the process of exploitation is not hidden by any secondary forms: the mask of a supraclass institution that looks after everyone alike is torn away from the state. This is the basic fact, and it thoroughly demolishes the arguments of the renegades. For socialism is regulated production, regulated by society, not by the state (state socialism is about as useful as leaky boots); it is the elimination of class contradictions, not their intensification. On its own, the regulation of production is far from signifying socialism: it occurs in every familial economy, among every slave-owning natural-economic group. What we in fact expect in the near future is state capitalism. A single protest might be raised against such a designation, namely, that the logical extreme and pure type of the relations now emerging would entail the elimination of hired labor. The worker would receive rations, “aliments,” not a monetary equivalent of the value of labor power. Just as market prices are replaced by regulated distribution of the product, so the wage form would disappear and along with it hired labor as such. The worker would become a slave. And since hired labor represents one of the most characteristic features of capitalism, it is impossible to use the term capitalism to designate relations that involve the elimination of hired labor. Nevertheless, we would accept this complaint as being correct and would introduce some new designation for the type of relations now being formed only in one event – that is, if a single world economy were in existence. Insofar as this is not the case (for reasons we have discussed in Kommunist, a single world economy represents an impossible hope), and insofar as the anarchy of the world market remains, the categories of value and wages are also preserved – with the single difference that now the position of the separate enterprise has been taken by the state enterprise. The labor market will become the world market for labor, and the movement of workers from one state to another will gather momentum. Likewise, we must not think that the state will be able to establish whatever prices it dreams up, or that the law of labor value loses its significance, for it would be absurd to imagine a closed state and economic autarky. The pressure of the world market remains.

Thus, state capitalism is the completed form of a state-capitalist trust. The process of organization gradually removes the anarchy of separate components of the “national-economic” mechanism, placing the whole of economic life under the iron heel of the militaristic state.


1) The dialectical development of state power: mercantilism, Manchesterism, imperialism. 2) Finance capitalism and the organizational process in the life of society: the emergence of a number of bourgeois organizations. 3) The dialectical development of state power: the sole organization of the ruling classes – one of the organizations – the all-embracing organization. 4) The working class and the state.

More than oats develop “according to Hegel.” A similar historical joke is played out in connection with the state. If we consider the capitalist state we see that during the epoch of commercial capitalism, at the dawn of its development, capitalism bore the mark of the state on its brow. State intervention flourished both externally and within the country, including the regulation of foreign trade, a system of premiums and every type of protectionism, the granting of privileges, etc. – such was the practice of mercantilism. The ensuing stage of capitalist development represented a complete negation of the mercantilist epoch. Industrial capitalism found its political expression in liberalism. Even the slightest intervention by state power in the “natural” course of economic life was considered a harmful experiment doomed to failure. So prevalent was this sort of theory that Spencer, for example, saw in the omnipotence of the state a vestige of the military regime that was not suitable for industrial capitalism, with its “voluntary cooperation.”[47] If liberalism and industrial capitalism were the negation of mercantilism and commercial capitalism, then imperialism, with finance capitalism as its basis, is the negation of the negation from the viewpoint of the developing functions of state power. The fact that recent tendencies of development are interpreted by some to be “vestiges” can be explained only by tradition, the inertia of thought, a failure to understand contemporary relations, and the projection of outmoded views from the pre-imperialist epoch into our own time. In reality, we have entered a new stage of development. With unprecedented force and on a scale never before observed in European history, the state is once again invading the sphere of economic relations (the class “communism” of the American Incas, etc., has not been adequately investigated). Insofar as we are speaking of society’s economic life, this growth of the state became possible thanks to an organizational process, which has strikingly unfolded since the final quarter of the past century.

As we know, this process took the economic form of an unusually rapid growth of every possible type of entrepreneurial organization: trusts, syndicates, cartels, corners and rings on the market, special alliances for struggle against workers’ organizations, and various institutions that undertook to represent the interests of “industry and commerce” (see, for example, the Russian “Councils of Congresses”), etc. But we must not assume that the organizational process has embraced the economy alone: its significance is much more general and profound. One could even say with a certain legitimacy that the bourgeoisie has not left a single corner of social life completely unorganized. For spiritual cultivation of the masses there is the church organization, with its far-flung apparatus, the school and the organized press. The daily “spiritual food” that is served up in abundance to the man in the street has long since ceased to be a “private” matter: every conceivable organization (the telegraph agencies, the press bureaus, the various associations of journalists, and, finally, entire newspaper trusts, which strictly control the production of bourgeois lies, etc.) adopts the honorable function of providing support to the “existing order.” Science also outgrew the condition of primitive disorganization long ago: every type of research, beginning with experiments in chemical laboratories or work on microorganisms and ending with archeological excavations, takes place systematically and according to plan. The academies see to the organization of science, along with learned conferences, specialized publications, and an endless stream of specialized institutions of every type (libraries, museums, experimental stations, laboratories, and observatories, which are genuine scientific factories, etc.). Bourgeois politics are also organized. Never before has there been such a close union of the bourgeois riffraff as there is today, in the epoch of finance capitalism. All of the formerly differentiated political organizations of the ruling classes are gradually losing their differentia specifica, being transformed into a single imperialist party. All-embracing blocs of all the imperialist parties – particularly when it is a question of the common struggle against revolutionary social democracy – complete unity on questions of foreign policy, the disappearance of all the remnants of democracy and the former liberalism: all of these trends clearly illustrate the process. The degree to which this universal organizational process embraces all and sundry can be seen simply by listing the multitude of societies, circles, associations, and other organizations, no matter what the area. Take, for example, propaganda on behalf of colonial policy. In France by 1906 this purpose was served by the various learned geographic societies: l’Union coloniale, le Comite Dupleix, la Societe de propagande coloniale, la France colonisatrice, l’Action coloniale et maritime, la Societe des etudes coloniales et mari-times, la Societe franc,aise de colonisation et d’agriculture coloniale, la Colonisation franchise, l’Association pour le placement gratuit de Frantjais al’etranger et aux colonies, la Societe francaise de’emigration des femmes, and l’Oeuvre coloniale des femmes frangaises. Then there were the special “comites”: les comites de l’Afrique francaise, de l’Asie frangaise, de Madagascar, de la Guyane frangaise, de l’Oceanie franchise, le Comite de propagande de l’Afrique occidentale franchise, le Comite du commerce et de l’industrie de l’Indo-Chine, la Societe l’Africaine, la Reunion d’etudes algeriennes – all of these together with l’Association cotonniere coloniale, l’Association caoutchouciere coloniale, l’Alliance francaise, la Mission laique frangaise, la Societe anti-esclavagiste de France, la Croix verte, etc.[48]

In other words, a multitude of various types of bourgeois organizations emerges (we shall speak of proletarian organizations later), and they overlap one another in the most diverse realms. The separate representatives of the ruling classes take their seats in different cells, which grow within definite limits, work out the collective will, and pose and resolve common tasks. Finally, the requirements of imperialist development compel bourgeois society to mobilize all of its forces, to extend its organization throughout the broadest possible context: the state absorbs into itself the whole multitude of bourgeois organizations.

Here, too, the war provided an enormous stimulus. Philosophy and medicine, religion and ethics, chemistry and bacteriology – all were “mobilized” and “militarized” in exactly the same way as industry and finances. The more rapidly there occurred a conscious, organized adaptation to the “whole” – that is, the more rapidly the state, by one means or another, incorporated these countless groups into its own universal organization – the more planned was the operation of this enormous technical, economic, and ideological machine. In the press it was announced that the capitalists had raised the question of producing nitroglycerine from the colossal number of corpses being produced by the war; all that was needed was to discover in a scientific manner the best method of doing so, a method that by virtue of the cheapness of the raw material would promise enormous profits. We do not know how true this report is or whether such ingenious thoughts really did enter the head of some worthy bourgeois. But the report – in the form of a caricature, it is true – does express the real state of affairs. From the viewpoint of sober “state reason,” that is, from the viewpoint of the ruling finance-capitalist oligarchy, the proletarian mass is an instrumentum vocale for the acquisition of superprofits. And just as the worn-out parts from machines or industrial experiments are utilized in some other productive process, so the energy locked up in human corpses can also be used. From this viewpoint, which is unique to the imperialist state, the work of doctors, sisters of mercy, the Red Cross, and similar organizations represents a repair job done on those instruments of imperialist competition that are worn out, but are still suitable for further use. As for the scholars, who are struggling with gum diseases, typhus, and cholera, their work is that of a lubricator who applies the oil and eliminates excessive friction in an enormous, death-dealing machine. That is how it is once state power becomes the center of attraction for these organizations and converts them into subordinate organs of the state giant.

The general pattern of the state’s development is therefore as follows: in the beginning the state is the sole organization of the ruling class. Then other organizations begin to spring up, their numbers multiplying especially in the epoch of finance capitalism. The state is transformed from the sole organization of the ruling class into one of its organizations, its distinction being that it has the most general character of all such organizations. Finally, the third stage arrives, in which the state swallows up these organizations and once more becomes the sole universal organization of the ruling class, with an internal, technical division of labor. The once-independent organizational groupings become the divisions of a gigantic state mechanism, which pounces upon the visible and internal enemy with crushing force. Thus emerges the finished type of the contemporary imperialist robber state, the iron organization, which with its tenacious, raking claws embraces the living body of society. This is the New Leviathan, beside which the fantasy of Thomas Hobbes looks like a child’s toy. For the time being there is no force on earth that might be its equal – “Non est potestas super terram quae comparetur ei.”[49]

Now we must turn to a perfectly natural question – the role played by the workers and proletarian organizations.

Here there are two theoretical possibilities: either the workers’ organizations, like all the organizations of the bourgeoisie, grow into the general state organization and become a simple appendage of the state apparatus, or, alternatively, they outgrow the confines of the state and explode it from within, organizing their own state power (or dictatorship). The first route, taken by the yellow social democracy of the Guesdes, Plekhanovs, Scheidemanns, Hendersons, Brantings, and Company, is one of converting the revolutionary party of the proletariat into a subordinate mechanism of the imperialist state, into its “labor department”; the second route, that of Liebknecht, Hoglund, Maclean, Muranov, and other comrades, is the route of revolutionary social democracy. In the mass actions of the proletariat, in the struggle between different “streams” and the splits in the old social democracy, we are experiencing a general revolutionizing process. This process indicates that the second outcome is becoming increasingly probable and that the national-imperialist labor policy will be overcome by the international socialist revolution. The material basis for such an outcome is the differentiated influence of imperialist policy on the position of the bourgeoisie compared with that of the proletariat. So long as imperialism allowed only its “progressive side” to be seen (the “peaceful” expansion of pre-war times), imperialist attitudes necessarily grew up within the proletariat. But now imperialism has displayed its aggressive side; and the more it does so, the greater is the burden it imposes on the international proletariat. Whereas the imperialist bourgeoisie sees vital necessity in continuation of the imperialist policy, the proletariat sees an equal necessity in the destruction of imperialism, and of capitalist production along with it.

Any further development of the state organisms – before the socialist revolution – is possible only in the form of militaristic state capitalism. Centralization is becoming the centralization of a barracks. In the upper stratum of society a vile military clique is inevitably growing in strength, resulting in brutal drilling and bloody repression of the proletariat. On the other hand, we have already seen that any activity by the proletariat, under these conditions, is inevitably directed against state power. Hence, a definite tactical demand: Social democracy must forcefully underline its hostility, in principle, to state power. So far as parliaments are concerned, social democracy must vote against the introduction of all monopolies, all customs unions, etc. Certain adherents of the party center attempt in vain to demonstrate that such innovations signify economic regression. But that is not the reason for our tactic. On the contrary, from an isolated economic and “nationally” limited point of view, these forms involve further centralization and undoubted progress. The real point is that this progress is nothing more than reinforcement and support for militarism and imperialism. To support the contemporary state means to support militarism. In our day the historical task is not to worry about further development of the productive forces (they are perfectly adequate for the realization of socialism), but to prepare a universal attack upon the ruling gangsters .50 In the growing revolutionary struggle, the proletariat destroys the state organization of the bourgeoisie, takes over its material framework, and creates its own temporary organization of state power. Having beaten back every counterattack of the reaction and cleared the way for the free development of socialist humanity, the proletariat, in the final analysis, abolishes its own dictatorship as well, once and for all driving an aspen stake. .

(At this point the manuscript breaks off. The remaining sheets have been lost.)


1. This article was intended for Sbornik Sotsial-Demokrata, a periodical publication of the Central Committee that began to appear after Kommunist ceased to exist. The editors of the Sbornik did not consider it possible to include the article, suggesting that it developed incorrect views concerning the state. Unfortunately, in the course of numerous travels abroad (under illegal conditions at that), several letters of Comrade Lenin’s on this matter were lost. After I received the refusal from Sbornik S-D, I wrote a number of short articles, developing the same system of views. These articles appeared in left-radical newspapers: the Dutch De Tribune (the article “De Nieuwe Lyfeigenschap” – “A New Slavery,” on 25 November 1916 and succeeding days); in the organ of Norwegian youth, Klassekampen; in the Bremen journal Arbeiterpolitik (“Rabochaya Politika”), which appeared during the war; and, finally, in the journal Jugendinternationale (an article under the pseudonym Nota Bene), and in a series of polemical articles (against Dr. Ingerman) in the New York paper Novyi Mir. V. I. came out with a note (published in volume XIII of the Sochineniya) against the article in Jugendinternationale. Readers will quite readily see that I did not commit the errors attributed to me, for I clearly saw the need for the dictatorship of the proletariat; on the other hand, it will be apparent from Ilich’s note that at the time he did not take a correct position on the “explosion” of the state (the bourgeois state, of course), confusing this question with the withering away of the dictatorship of the proletariat. Perhaps I should have further developed the theme of the dictatorship at that time. But in my defense I can say that at that time there was such indiscriminate Social-Democratic glorification of the bourgeois state that it was natural to concentrate all attention on the question of the explosion of this machine.

When I arrived in Russia from America, I saw Nadezhda Konstantinovna (this was at our illegal Sixth Congress, when V. I. was in hiding); and her first words were as follows: “V.I. asked me to tell you that he no longer has any disagreements with you on the question of the state.” Dealing with this question Ilich came to the same conclusions regarding the “explosion,” but he developed this theme and his subsequent teaching concerning the dictatorship so fully as to constitute an entire epoch in the development of theoretical thought in this area. – N.B.

2. See Gumplowicz, Geschichte der Staatstheorien (Innsbruck, 1905), p. 8.

3. Edgar Loening, “Der Staat,” in Handwbrterbuch der Staatswissenschaften. N. Jerusalem, repeating Plato’s words that the task of the state is realization of the moral ideal, claims that this view is now more correct than ever before (Der Krieg im Lichte der Gesellschaftslehre [Stuttgart, 1915], p. 61). Compare this with Wygodzinsky, “Staat und Wirtschaft,” Handbuch der Politik, p. iii. This is the same as saying that the goal of capital is to improve the workers’ wages.

4. Frederick Engels, The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the

State, in Marx and Engels, Selected Works (in English) (Moscow, 1962), p. 320. “... The state is an organization of the possessing class for its protection against the nonpossessing class” (Ibid., p. 321). ‘The policy (of the ruling classes – N.B.) is but a method of stabilization and an instrument for the preservation and expansion of property” (Achille Loria, Les Bases economiques de la constitution sociale [ 2nd ed.] [Paris, 1903], p. 362).

5. Oppenheimer, “Staat und Gesellschaft,” in Handb. der Politik, p 117. See also his Der Staat (published by M. Biber, Frankfurt a/M), pp. 9 and 151). On the difference between economics and politics for this author, see Theorie der und politischen Oekonomie (2nd ed.) (Berlin, 1911).

6. Der Staat, p. 9.

7. “Staat und Gesellschaft,” in Handb. der Politik, p. 115.

8. See G. Schmoller (Jahrbucher, 1890, p. 72), “Das Wesen der Arbeitsteilung und der sozialen Klassenbildung,” in which Schmoller says: “These truths (concerning the role of conquest – N.B.) are either incorrectly or exaggeratedly generalized by Gumplowicz, so that every emergence of a state, every advanced culture, every formation of social classes and division of labor is derived from the racial struggle “ Schmoller himself, in contrast, tries to “smooth over” real history. On the factual side, see Schmoller, “Die Tatsachen der Arbeitsteilung” in Jahrbucher, 1889. Interesting theoretical observations of a general character are found in E. Durkheim’s De la division du travail social (Paris, 1893).

9. In contrast to such underestimations, see Mayers, The History of Great American Fortunes, vol. I.

10. Oppenheimer’s “explanation” is that the masses, infected by the state in their native land, imported this state with them (Der Staat, p. 10). But even if the state is viewed as a secret illness of the masses, it is incomprehensible why it was not cured by the pure air of America. The strain inherent in O.’s explana-is obvious.

11. See his “Die soziale Frage und der Sozialismus.” It is interesting that Oppenheimer ends his book on the state ... withaeulogy of the imperialist bureaucracy.

12. Engels, The Origin of the Family ... , pp. 318-19.

13. Apropos of this, K. Renner, who during the war broke all records for legerdemain, giving brilliant quasi-Marxist formulations of his imperialist longings, based defense of the fatherland on the consideration that capital, for Marx, is a relation between the capitalist and the laborer and that both members of this relation are therefore necessary. But Renner forgot the trifling fact that revolutionary social democracy by no means strives to immortalize these relations, aiming, on the contrary, at exploding them (See Kampf for 1915-1916).

14. K. Marx, “Kritische Randglossen,” etc. Nachlass, vol. n, p. 50.

15. Engels, “On Authority” in Marx and Engels, Selected Works, p. 639.

16. Engels, The Origin of the Family... , p. 322.

17. Adolf Wagner, for example, writes (“Staat in nationalokonomischer Hinsicht,” in Handwbrterbuch der Staatswissenschaften) that the socialist state would have all the features of the state “in hbchster Potenz,” for one must not consider class oppression a characteristic feature. True, according to Wagner, there are now “abuses” (Missbrauche), but they are not essential “for the concept of the state..”.. All of this rubbish finds a complete analogy in the economic theories of capital (Bohm-Bawerk, Clark & Co.): the essence of capital is not social domination, but simply capital’s existence as a means of production. Today there are “abuses.” As for the future, even with socialism, capital and profit will calmly flourish....

18. L. Gumplowicz, Geschichte der Staatstheorien, p. 373.

19. Jellinek, for example, writes (Allgemeine Staatslehre [3rd. ed.] [Berlin, 1914], p. 89) that according to Marx, “The state is nothing but an organization of the exploiting class to maintain its external conditions of production, whereas internally the necessary goal (!) of history is the acquiring of state power by the proletarians. In this future epoch, the state (! !) will regulate the whole of production in accordance with the common interest. Thus, the goal (!) of development would be the complete unity of society and the state.... Hence, socialist teaching about society sharply contradicts the anarchist view. In the latter case the state is abolished by society; in the former case society is abolished by the state.” We have not even mentioned the imposition upon Marxism of teleological nonsense (the “goal” of history). Without batting an eyelash, and referring to Anti-Duhring and The Origin of the Family, Jellinek attributes to Marx-Engels the viewpoint against which they struggled. This is known even to Jellinek himself, for on p. 194 he writes: “Thus the socialists, at least pro futuro, deny the need for a state.” So, on p. 89 the future epoch is one of an all-powerful state, but on p. 194 it is one of its negation. The sources of hostility toward Marxism and all “theories of domination” are explained quite frankly by Jellinek: “The practical consequence of a theory of domination is not to justify, but to destroy the state” (p. 195); “it paves the way (this theory – N.B.) for the permanent revolution” (p. 196). G. Oppenheimer (Der Staat, p. 6) asserts that Plato and the Marxists (!) assign supreme power to the state and want to make it (! !) absolute master of the citizen. G. Schmoller struggles against socialism in a very original way: “Whoever knows how a good cook looks down upon the simple servant, or the servant of a count’s home upon a servant in a bourgeois home, or the skilled mason and carpenter upon the unskilled, will understand that a hierarchy of estates is a psychological necessity for all time.” And that was written in a serious journal by a serious authority.

For the difference between socialists and anarchists, see the text.

20. Hans Delbruck, Regierung und Volkswille (Berlin, Verl. v. George Stilke, 1914), p. 133.

21. Altmann, Finanzwissenschaft, p. 22.

22. Statistisches Jahrbuch fur das Deutsche Reich, 1915.

23. Eheberg, Finanzwissenschaft (10th ed.).

24. The Statesman’s Yearbook, 1915, p. 42.

25. Ibid.

26. Ibid.

27. Ibid.

28. The absence from the text of data for Russia is explained by the following note, inserted here in the manuscript and addressed by the author to Comrade Zinoviev: “Dear Grigorii, please insert the figures for Russian budgetary expenditures for the corresponding years. I am currently in such an out-of-the-way hole that it is absolutely impossible to acquire the necessary figures. On page 21 please provide the percent increase. Very well. Do not be angry that I am causing you difficulty.”

29. Parvus, Das Soziale Problem unserer Zeit, p. 31.

30. We have given a detailed analysis of this process in the Marxist journal Kommunist. See our article “Mirovoe khozyaistvo i imperializm.”

31. See Naumann, Mitteleuropa.

32. Emil Lederer, Der Wirtschaftsprozess im Kriege.

33. Edmund Fischer, “Der Krieg und das sozialistische Werden,” in Annalen

fur soziale Politik und Gesetzgebung (hg. von Heinr. Braun, 1915) IV. It is interesting to follow the manner in which capitalism’s process of conversion into state capitalism is accompanied by the collapse of the individualistic character of bourgeois ideology. In the realm of theoretical economics, for example, an alteration of the “Austrian” theory of marginal utility is occurring in the American manner, which corresponds much more closely to the epoch, interests, and psychology of finance capitalism.

34. This is well understood by the imperialist canaille bourgeoise, as opposed to the quasi-socialist, naive pacifists. (See, for example, Professor Max Krah-mann, Krieg und Montanindustrie, p. 15.)

35. Statist. Jahrbuch fur das Deutsche Reich fur 1915.

36. See E. Jaffe, “Die Militarisierung unseres Wirtschaftslebens,” Archiv fur Sozialwissenschaft und Sozialpolitik, 1915, 40 (3), 529, 530.

37. On monopolies see: Ad. Braun, “Elektrizitatsmonopol,” Neue Zeit (N.Z.), XXIII, nos. 19, 20; Edm. Fisher, “Das Werden des Elektrizitatsmonopol,” in Soz. Monatshefte, pp. 443 et seq.; Edg. Jaffe, loc. cit; Felix Pinner, “Organisierte Arbeit,” in Handels-Zeitung d. Berl. Tagebl., No. 439; H. Cunow, “Die Wirt-schaftsgestaltung nach dem Kriege,” in Korrespondenzblatt der Generalkommis-sion, 25 Jahrg, no. 37; Rudolf Hilferding, “Organisationsmacht und Staatsgewalt,” in N.Z., XXII, B. 2; Karl Kautsky, “Zur Frage der Steuern und Monopole,” in N.Z., XXI, I: also the article by Friedman in Vestnik Finansov. We must comment upon the even greater role of municipalities (for example, in Germany they play an enormous role in supplying electrical energy). Essentially “municipal self-government” can be seen as a subsection of the state organization. The financial side of the matter is considered by Gerling – “Die finanzwirtschaftliche Behandlung der stadtischen Werke,” in Finanz-Archiv, 33 Jahrg.

38. See the project to convert the entire economy of Germany into a single joint-stock company under the domination of the state.

39. Johann Muller gives a summary of all measures of the German government in “Nationalokonomische Gesetzgebung. Die durch den Krieg hervorgeru-fenen Gesetze, Verordnungen, Bekanntmachungen u.s.w.,” in Jahrbucher fur Nationalokonomie u. Statistik; see also Professor Hatschek, “Die Rechtstechnik des Kriegssozialismus,” in Deutsche Revue, June 1916; for France see Ch. Gide, “The provisioning of France and measures to that end,” in The Economic Journal, March, 1916, and French correspondence in The Economist (no. 1120, 11 March 1916, 27 May, 3 June, etc.).

40. See Hatschek, loc. cit.; E. Meyer, “Die Drohung mit der Finanzsyndikat,” in N.Z., XXXIH, B. 2, N. 18. Germany has analogous organizations in the production of wool, chemical products, metals, leather products, etc.

41. See Pinner, loc. cit.

42. See Dr. Weber, “Krieg und Banken,” in Volkswirtschaftliche Zeitfragen (hg. von der Volkswirtschaftlichen Gesellschaft in Berlin, 1915), vol. 7. Besides Darlehenskassen Kriegskreditbanken were also created; their importance, however, is still minor.

43. See Willy Baumgart, Unsere Reichsbank, ihre Geschichte und ihre Verfas-sung (Berlin, 1915).

44. Hence the direct “projects” of converting the entire imperial economy into a joint-stock enterprise. See, for example, Heinrich Nienkamp, Die Reichs-Aktien-Gesellschaft (Berlin-Charlottenburg).

45. M. Krahmann, loc. cit., pp. 22-23.

46. E. Fischer, “Der Krieg und das sozialistische Werden.” Ziefman writes

in opposition to this point of view (“Bringt uns der Krieg dem Sozialismus naher”); also Professor Hans Koppe (Kriegswirtschaft und Sozialismus [Marburg, 1915]) and others. The question is posed in a general way by G. Mayer, Volkswirtschaft, Weltwirtschaft, Kriegswirtschaft. See also Otto Prange, neutschlands Volkswirtschaft nach dem Kriege.

47. Spencer, Man versus the State.

48. Paul Masson, Les Colonies frangaises au debut du XX siecle. Exposition coloniale de Marseilles (1906), vol. I, pp. 61-62.

49. Thomas Hobbes, Moral and Political Works (London, 1750).

50. A “shrewd” reader will say that social democracy always aims to develop the productive forces and that even socialism is desirable because it emancipates development of the productive forces from capitalist fetters. Of course, this is true. But we assert that the present (relatively brief) interval of time demands something else of us. Just as in a time of insurrection, shall we say, social democracy does not fear a temporary destruction of part of the productive forces (that was the fear of Mr. Struve, who has cried out about the ruin of industry and anarchy); in the final analysis the development of the productive forces will also take place more intensively.