Nikolai Bukharin

Programme of the World Revolution

Chapter XIX
The Liberation of Nations

(The National Question and International Diplomacy)

The programme of the Communist Party is a scheme not only for the liberation of the proletariat of one country, but for the emancipation of the proletariat of the whole world: for it is a programme of international revolution. But it is, at the same time, a programme of the liberation of all oppressed countries and nations. The plundering “great Empires” (England, Germany, Japan, America, etc.) have, by dint of robbery, acquired ascendancy over untold expanses of land and vast numbers of people. They have divided our whole planet between them; and no wonder that in these conquered countries the working class and the labouring masses are groaning under a double yoke – that of their own bourgeoisie and the additional one cast upon them by their conquerors.

Tzarist Russia had also gained by plunder ft great deal of territory and many peoples. The present size of “our” Empire is only to be explained in this way. It is quite natural that among many “aliens,” including even some sections of the proletariat who did not belong to the “great Russian” nationality, there was a general lack of confidence towards the “Moscal,” as the natives of Muscovy were formerly called. The nationalist persecution evoked nationalist sentiments; the oppressed part of the proletariat had no confidence in the oppressing nationality as a whole, without distinction of class; the oppressing parts of the proletariat did not sufficiently understand the position of the “alien” proletariat subjected to by a double burden of persecution. And yet, in order to attain the victory of the workers’ revolution along the whole front, complete and perfect confidence of the various parts of the proletariat towards each other is imperative. The proletariat of “alien” nations should be made to feel by deed and word that it has a loyal ally in the person of the proletariat of the nation that formerly was the oppressor. Here in Russia the dominating nation used to be the “Great Russian,” which conquered in succession the Finns and the Tartars, the Ukrainians and the Armenians, the Georgians and the Poles, the Sivashes and Moravians, the Kirghizes and Bashkirs, and dozens of other tribes. It naturally follows that some proletarians of these peoples foster mistaken notions concerning everything Russian. He has been accustomed to being ordered about and abused by the Tzar’s officials, and he thinks that all Russians and the Russian proletariat as well are like what the former was.

It is for the purpose of instilling a brotherly confidence in the various sections of the proletariat that the programme of the Communists proclaims the right of the labouring class of every nation to complete independence. That means to say that the Russian worker who is now at the head of the Government must say to the workers of other nationalities living in Russia:

“Comrades, if you do not wish to form a part of the Soviet Republic: if you wish to organise your own Soviets and form an independent Soviet Republic, you can do so. We fully acknowledge your right to do so, and we do not wish to detain you by force even for a single moment.”

It is self-evident that only by such tactics can the confidence of the proletariat as a whole be won. Let us imagine what would happen if the workers’ Soviets of Great Russia were to attempt by force of arms to coerce the working class of other nations into submission. The latter would, of course, defend themselves with arms. That would mean the complete collapse of the whole of all proletarian movements and the fall of the Revolution. That is not the right way to act, for, we repeat, victory is possible only on condition of a fraternal union of the workers.

Let us bear this in mind. The question is not of the right of the nation (i.e., of the workers and the bourgeoisie together) to independence, but of the right of the labouring classes. That means that the so-called “will of the nation” is not in the least sacred to us. We consider sacred only the will of the proletariat and the semi-proletariat masses.

That is why we speak not of the rights of nations to independence, but of the right of the labouring classes of every nation to separation if it so desires. During a proletarian dictatorship it is not the Constituent Assemblies (all national, embracing all the people of the given territory), but the Soviets of workers that decide questions. And if in any out-of-the-way corner there would he simultaneously convened two conferences, the “Constituent Assembly” of the given nation and the Convention of Soviets; and if it so happens that the “Constituent Assembly” expressed itself in favour of separation, and the Proletariat Convention voted against it, even then we should support the decision of the proletariat against that of the “Constituent Assembly” by every means, including force of arms.

This is how the Proletarian Party decides questions relating to the proletarians of the various nations living within the boundaries of the country. But our party is confronted with a still more difficult question, that of its international programme. Hi-re our way is clear. We must pursue the tactics of universal support of the International Revolution by means of revolutionary propaganda, strikes, and revolts in Imperialist countries, and by propagating revolts and insurrections in the colonies of these countries.

In Imperialist countries (and such are all countries except Russia, where the workers have blown out the brains of capital) one of the main obstacles to a revolution is the social-patriotic party. Even at the present moment it is proclaiming the defence of the (plundering) fatherland, thereby deceiving the masses of the people. They are deploring the decay of the (plundering) army. They are persecuting our friends the German, Austrian and English Bolsheviks, who alone persist in refusing with contempt and indignation to defend the bourgeois fatherland. The position of the Soviet Republic is an exclusive one. It is the only proletarian State organisation in the world, in the midst of organised plundering bourgeois States. For that reason alone this Soviet State has a right to be defended; and more than that, it must be looked on as a weapon of the universal proletariat against the universal bourgeoisie. The war cry of this struggle is self-evident: the universal war cry of this struggle is the motto of the International Soviet Republic.

The overthrow of Imperialist Governments by means of armed insurrections and the organisation of the international Soviet Republic, such is the way to an international dictatorship of the working class.

The most efficient means of supporting the international revolution is the organisation of armed forces of the revolution. The workers of all countries who are not blinded by social patriots, the local Socialist Revolutionaries and Mensheviks (of whom there are many in every country) recognise in the Russian Workers’ Revolution and in the Soviet Government facts that concern them intimately. Why? Because they understand that the government of the Soviets means the government of the workers themselves. It would be quite different if the bourgeoisie, aided by the Mensheviks and Social Revolutionaries, had overthrown the Soviet Government, convened the Constituent Assembly, and by its means had organised the government of the bourgeoisie, approximately on the same plan as that which existed before the October coup d’etat. In that case the working class would have lost its country, its fatherland, for it would have lost its power. Then the banks would inevitably have been returned to the bankers, the factories to the manufacturers, and the land to the landowners. The fatherland of profits would have revived, and the workers would not have been interested in the least in defending such a fatherland. On the other hand the West European workers would also have ceased to regard bourgeoisie Russia as the bright beacon showing them their way in the difficult struggle. The development of international revolution would have been retarded. On the contrary, the organisation of the armed forces of the workers and peasants, the organisation of resistance against international robbers who are fighting against Soviet Russia as its class enemies, as owners and capitalists, in a word, as a band of executioners of the Workers’ Revolution, the organisation of the Red Army – these are the factors combining to strengthen the revolutionary movement in all European countries.

The better we are organised, the better we arm the battalions of workers and peasants, the stronger will be the proletarian dictatorship in Russia, and the quicker will the cause of international revolution advance.

The Revolution is inevitable, however its progress hindered by German, Austrian, French and English Mensheviks. The Russian working masses have broken with the compromisers. The workers of Western Europe will also break with them. (They are, as a matter of fact, doing so already.) The maxim of overthrowing the bourgeois fatherlands, of shattering the plundering Governments, and of establishing workers’ dictatorships, is steadily gaining ground. Sooner or later we shall have an International Republic of Soviets.

The International Republic of Soviets will free hundreds of millions of peoples of their yoke. The “civilised” plundering Empires have cruelly tortured the inhabitants of their colonies by their blood and iron regime. European civilisation was maintained by the blood of small peoples mercilessly exploited and robbed in the far-off countries beyond the seas. They will be freed by the dictatorship of the proletariat, and by that alone. Just as the Russian Soviet Government has announced its refusal to participate in a colonial policy, and has proved its decision by its attitude with regard to Persia, just so will the European working class, after overthrowing the domination of bankers, etc., give complete freedom to the oppressed and exploited classes. That is the reason why our programme, which is that of the international revolution, is at the same time a scheme for the complete liberation of all the weak and oppressed. The great class – the working class – has set before itself great problems: and it has not only set them, but is proceeding to solve them in a bloody, painful, heroic struggle.

Last updated on 7.8.2008