N.I. Bukharin and E. Preobrazhensky: The ABC of Communism


Chapter 3: Communism and the Dictatorship of the Proletariat

§ 19 Characteristics of the communist system. Production unde communism

We have seen why the destruction of the capitalist system was inevitable. It is now perishing under our very eyes. It is perishing because it is affected by two fundamental contradictions: on the one hand, anarchy of production, leading to competition, crises, and wars; on the other hand, the class character of society, owing to which one part of society inevitably finds itself in mortal enmity with the other part (class war). Capitalist society is like a badly constructed machine, in which one part is continually interfering with the movements of another (see §13 'Fundamental contradictions of the capitalist system'). That is why it was inevitable that this machine would break down sooner or later.

It is evident that the new society must be much more solidly constructed than capitalism. As soon as the fundamental contradictions of capitalism have destroyed the capitalist system, upon the ruins of that system there must arise a new society which will be free from the contradictions of the old. That is to say, the communist method of production must present the following characteristics: In the first place it must be an organized society; it must be free from anarchy of production, from competition between individual entrepreneurs, from wars and crises. In the second place it must be a classless society, not a society in which the two halves are at eternal enmity one with the other; it must not be a society in which one class exploits the other. Now a society in which there are no classes, and in which production is organized, can only be a society of comrades, a communist society based upon labour.

Let us examine this society more closely.

The basis of communist society must be the social ownership of the means of production and exchange. Machinery, locomotives, steamships, factory buildings, warehouses, grain elevators, mines, telegraphs and telephones, the land, sheep, horses, and cattle, must all be at the disposal of society. All these means of production must be under the control of society as a whole, and not as at present under the control of individual capitalists or capitalist combines. What do we mean by 'society as a whole'? We mean that ownership and control is not the privilege of a class but of all the persons who make up society. In these circumstances society will be transformed into a huge working organization for cooperative production. There will then be neither disintegration of production nor anarchy of production. In such a social order, production will be organized. No longer will one enterprise compete with another; the factories, workshops, mines, and other productive institutions will all be subdivisions, as it were, of one vast people's workshop, which will embrace the entire national economy of production. It is obvious that so comprehensive an organization presupposes a general plan of production. If all the factories and workshops together with the whole of agricultural production are combined to form an immense cooperative enterprise, it is obvious that everything must be precisely calculated. We must know in advance how much labour to assign to the various branches of industry; what products are required and how much of each it is necessary to produce; how and where machines must be provided. These and similar details must be thought out beforehand, with approximate accuracy at least; and the work must be guided in conformity with our calculations. This is how the organization of communist production will be effected. Without a general plan, without a general directive system, and without careful calculation and book-keeping, there can be no organization. But in the communist social order, there is such a plan.

Mere organization does not, however, suffice. The essence of the matter lies in this, that the organization shall be a cooperative organization of all the members of society. The communist system, in addition to affecting organization, is further distinguished by the fact that it puts an end to exploitation, that it abolishes the division of society into classes. We might conceive the organization of production as being effected in the following manner: a small group of capitalists, a capitalist combine, controls everything; production has been organized, so that capitalist no longer competes with capitalist; conjointly they extract surplus value from the workers, who have been practically reduced to slavery. Here we have organization, but we also have the exploitation of one class by another. Here there is a joint ownership of the means of production, but it is joint ownership by one class, an exploiting class. This is something very different from communism, although it is characterized by the organization of production. Such an organization of society would have removed only one of the fundamental contradictions, the anarchy of production. But it would have strengthened the other fundamental contradication of capitalism, the division of society into two warring halves; the class war would be intensified. Such a society would be organized along one line only; on another line, that of class structure, it would still be rent asunder. Communist society does not merely organize production; in addition, it frees people from oppression by others. It is organized throughout.

The cooperative character of communist production is likewise displayed in every detail of organization. Under communism, for example, there will not be permanent managers of factories, nor will there be persons who do one and the same kind of work throughout their lives. Under capitalism, if a man is a bootmaker, he spends his whole life in making boots (the cobbler sticks to his last); if he is a pastrycook, he spends all his life baking cakes; if he is the manager of a factory, he spends his days in issuing orders and in administrative work; if he is a mere labourer, his whole life is spent in obeying orders. Nothing of this sort happens in communist society. Under communism people receive a many-sided culture, and find themselves at home in various branches of production: today I work in an administrative capacity, 1 reckon up how many felt boots or how many French rolls must be produced in the following month; tomorrow I shall be working in a soapfactory, next month perhaps in a steam-laundry, and the month after in an electric power station. This will be possible when all the members of society have been suitably educated.

§ 20 Distribution in the communist system

The communist method of production presupposes in addition that production is not for the market, but for use. Under com munism, it is no longer the individual manufacturer or the individual peasant who produces; the work of production is effected by the gigantic cooperative as a whole. In consequence of this change, we no longer have commodities, but only products. These products are not exchanged one for another; they are neither bought nor sold. They are simply stored in the com munal warehouses, and are subsequently delivered to those who need them. In such conditions, money will no longer be re quired. 'How can that be?' some of you will ask. 'In that case one person will get too much and another too little. What sense is there in such a method of distribution?' The answer is as follows. At first, doubtless, and perhaps for twenty or thirty years, it will be necessary to have various regulations. Maybe certain products will only be supplied to those persons who have a special entry in their work-book or on their work-card. Subsequently, when communist society has been consolidated and fully developed, no such regulations will be needed. There will be an ample quantity of all products, our present wounds will long since have been healed, and everyone will be able to get just as much as he needs. 'But will not people find it to their interest to take more than they need?' Certainly not. Today, for example, no one thinks it worth while when he wants one seat in a tram, to take three tickets and keep two places empty. It will be just the same in the case of all products. A person will take from the communal storehouse precisely as much as he needs, no more. No one will have any interest in taking more than he wants in order to sell the surplus to others, since all these others can satisfy their needs whenever they please. Money will then have no value. Our meaning is that at the outset, in the first days of communist society, products will probably be distributed in accordance with the amount of work done by the applicant; at a later stage, however, they will simply be supplied according to the needs of the comrades.

It has often been contended that in the future society everyone will have the right to the full product of his labour. 'What you have made by your labour, that you will receive.' This is false. It would never be possible to realize it fully. Why not? For this reason, that if everyone were to receive the full product of his labour, there would never be any possibility of developing, expanding, and improving production. Part of the work done must always be devoted to the development and improvement of production. If we had to consume and to use up everything we have produced, then we could never produce machines, for these cannot be eaten or worn. But it is obvious that the bettering of life will go hand in hand with the extension and improvement of machinery. It is plain that more and more machines must continually be produced. Now this implies that part of the labour which has been incorporated in the machines will not be returned to the person who has done the work. It implies that no one can ever receive the full product of his labour. But nothing of the kind is necessary. With the aid of good machinery, production will be so arranged that all needs will be satisfied.

To sum up, at the outset products will be distributed in proportion to the work done (which does not mean that the worker will receive 'the full product of his labour'); subsequently, products will be distributed according to need, for there will be an abundance of everything.

§ 21 Administration in the communist system

In a communist society there will be no classes. But if there will be no classes, this implies that in communist society there will likewise be no State.

We have previously seen that the State is a class organization of the rulers. The State is always directed by one class against the other. A bourgeois State is directed against the proletariat, whereas a proletarian State is directed against the bourgeoisie. In the communist social order there are neither landlords, nor capitalists, nor wage workers; there are simply people - comrades. If there are no classes, then there is no class war, and there are no class organizations. Consequently the State has ceased to exist. Since there is no class war, the State has become superfluous. There is no one to be held in restraint, and there is no one to impose restraint.

But how, they will ask us, can this vast organization be set in motion without any administration? Who is going to work out the plans for social production? Who will distribute labour power? Who is going to keep account of social income and expenditure? In a word, who is going to supervise the whole affair?

It is not difficult to answer these questions. The main direction will be entrusted to various kinds of book-keeping offices or statistical bureaux. There, from day to day, account will be kept of production and all its needs; there also it will be decided whither workers must be sent, whence they must be taken, and how much work there is to be done. And inasmuch as, from childhood onwards, all will have been accustomed to social labour, and since all will understand that this work is necessary and that life goes easier when everything is done according to a prearranged plan and when the social order is like a well-oiled machine, all will work in accordance with the indications of these statistical bureaux. There will be no need for special ministers of State, for police and prisons, for laws and decrees - nothing of the sort. Just as in an orchestra all the performers watch the conductor's baton and act accordingly, so here all will consult the statistical reports and will direct their work accordingly.

The State, therefore, has ceased to exist. There are no groups and there is no class standing above all other classes. Moreover, in these statistical bureaux one person will work today, another tomorrow. The bureaucracy, the permanent officialdom, will disappear. The State will die out.

Manifestly this will only happen in the fully developed and strongly established communist system, after the complete and definitive victory of the proletariat; nor will it follow immediately upon that victory. For a long time yet, the working class will have to fight against, all its enemies, and in especial against the relics of the past, such as sloth, slackness, criminality, pride. All these will have to be stamped out. Two or three generations of persons will have to grow up under the new conditions before the need will pass for laws and punishments and for the use of repressive measures by the workers' State. Not until then will all the vestiges of the capitalist past disappear. Though in the intervening period the existence of the workers' State is indispensable, subsequently, in the fully developed communist system, when the vestiges of capitalism are extinct, the proletarian State authority will also pass away. The proletariat itself will become mingled with all the other strata of the population, for everyone will by degrees come to participate in the common labour. Within a few decades there will be quite a new world, with new people and new customs.

§ 22 The development of productive forces in the communit system (the advantages of communism)

As soon as victory has been achieved and as soon as all our wounds have been healed, the communist system will rapidly develop the forces of production. This more rapid development of the forces of production will be due to the following causes.

In the first place, there will have ensued the liberation of the vast quantity of human energy which is now absorbed in the class struggle. Just think how great is the waste of nervous energy, strength, and labour - upon the political struggle, upon strikes, revolts and their suppression, trials in the lawcourts, police activities, the State authority, upon the daily effort of the two hostile classes. The class war now swallows up vast quantities of energy and material means. In the new system this energy will be liberated; people will no longer struggle one with another. The liberated energy will be devoted to the work of production.

Secondly, the energy and the material means which now are destroyed or wasted in competition, crises, and wars, will all be saved. If we consider how much is squandered upon wars alone, we shall realize that this amounts to an enormous quantity. How much, again, is lost to society through the struggle of sellers one with another, of buyers one with another, and of sellers with buyers. How much futile destruction results from commercial crises. How much needless outlay results from the disorganization and confusion that prevail in production. All these energies, which now run to waste, will be saved in communist society.

Thirdly, the organization of industry on a purposive plan will not merely save us from needless waste, in so far as largescale production is always more economical. In addition, it will be possible to improve production from the technical side, for work will be conducted in very large factories and with the aid of perfected machinery. Under capitalism, there are definite limits to the introduction of new machinery. The capitalist only introduces new machinery when he cannot procure a sufficiency of cheap labour. If he can hire an abundance of cheap labour, the capitalist will never instal new machinery, since he can secure ample profit without this trouble. The capitalist finds machinery requisite only when it reduces his expenses for highly paid labour. Under capitalism, however, labour is usually cheap. The bad conditions that prevail among the working class become a hindrance to the improvement of manufacturing technique. This causal sequence is peculiarly obvious in agriculture. Here labour power has always been cheap, and for that reason, the introduction of machinery in agricultural work has been extremely slow. In communist society, our concern will not be for profit but for the workers. There every technical advance will be immediately adopted. The chains which capitalism imposed will no longer exist. Technical advances will continue to take place under communism, for all will now enjoy a good education, and those who under capitalism perished from want - mentally gifted workers, for instance - will be able to turn their capacities to full account.

In communist society parasitism will likewise disappear. There will be no place for the parasites who do nothing and who live at others' cost. That which in capitalist society is squandered by the capitalists in gluttony, drunkenness, and riotous living, will in communist society be devoted to the needs of production. The capitalists, their lackeys, and their hangers-on (priests, prostitutes, and the rest), will disappear, and all the members of society will be occupied in productive labour.

The communist method of production will signify an enormous development of productive forces. As a result, no worker in communist society will have to do as much work as of old. The working day will grow continually shorter, and people will be to an increasing extent freed from the chains imposed on them by nature. As soon as man is enabled to spend less time upon feeding and clothing himself, he will be able to devote more time to the work of mental development. Human culture will climb to heights never attained before. It will no longer be a class culture, but will become a genuinely human culture. Concurrently with the disappearance of man's tyranny over man, the tyranny of nature over man will likewise vanish. Men and women will for the first time be able to lead a life worthy of thinking beings instead of a life worthy of brute beasts.

The opponents of communism have always described it as a process of sharing things out equally. They declared that the communists wanted to confiscate everything and to divide everything up; to parcel out the land, to divide up the other means of production, and to share out also all the articles of consumption. Nothing could be more absurd than this notion. Above all, such a general division is impossible. We could share out land, horses and cattle, money, but could not share out railways, machinery, steamboats, and various other things of the sort. So much for that. Furthermore, such a division, as far as practicable, would not merely do no good to anyone, but would be a backward step for mankind. It would create a vast number of petty proprietors. But we have already seen that out of petty proprietorship and the competition among petty proprietors there issues large-scale proprietorship. Thus even if it were possible to realize such an equal division, the same old cycle would be reproduced.

Proletarian communism (or proletarian socialism) is a huge cooperative commonwealth. It is a sequence of the whole development of capitalist society and of the condition of the proletariat in that society. It must be carefully distinguished from the four following things

1. Lumpenproletarian socialism (anarchism). The anarchists reproach the communists on the ground that communism (so they contend) will maintain the State authority in the future society. As we have seen, the assertion is false. The essential difference consists in this, that the anarchists are far more concerned with dividing up than with the organization of production; and that they conceive the organization of production as taking the form, not of a huge cooperative commonwealth, but of a great number of 'free', small, self-governing communes. It need hardly be said that such a social system would fail to liberate mankind from nature's yoke, for in it the forces of production would not be developed even to the degree to which they have been developed under capitalism. Anarchism would not increase production, but would disintegrate it. It is natural that, in practice, the anarchists should advocate the dividing up of articles of consumption and should oppose the organization of large-scale production. They do not, for the most part, represent the interests and aspirations of the working class; they represent those of what is termed the lumpenproletariat, the loaferproletariat; they represent the interests of those who live in bad conditions under capitalism, but who are quite incapable of independent creative work.

2. Petty-bourgeois socialism. This finds its main supporters, not in the proletariat, but in the decaying class of independent artisans, among the lower middle-class townsfolk, and in part among the intelligentsia (professional classes). It protests against large-scale capital, but it does so in the name of the 'freedom' of petty enterprise. For the most part the petty-bourgeois socialists advocate bourgeois democracy and oppose the social revolution; they hope to attain their ideals 'peacefully' - through the development of cooperatives, a unified organization of home workers, and so on. In Russia, most of the urban cooperatives formed by the social revolutionists exhibit this complexion. Under capitalism, cooperative enterprises are apt to degenerate into ordinary capitalistic organizations, and the cooperators can in this case hardly be distinguished from bourgeois.

3. Agrarian peasant socialism. This assumes various forms, and at times closely resembles peasant anarchism. Its most distinctive characteristic is the way in which it habitually fails to look upon socialism as a system of large-scale production, and the way in which it inclines towards dividing up and towards equalization. Its main distinction from anarchism is that it demands the creation of a strong central authority which shall protect it on the one hand from the landlords and on the other from the proletariat. In this form of socialism we have the 'socialization of the land' advocated by the social revolutionists, who desire to establish small-scale production in perpetuity, who dread the proletariat, and who oppose the formation of a great and united cooperative commonwealth. In addition, among certain strata of the peasantry, we find yet other varieties of socialism more or less akin to anarchism. Here the State authority is repudiated, but the advocates of these trends are distinguished by their pacifist views (various communistically inclined sectaries, such as the Duhobors, etc.). The agrarian types of socialism will not be eradicated until after the lapse of a good many years. They will disappear as soon as the masses of the peasantry come to realize the advantages of large-scale production. We shall return to this matter later in the book.

4. Slaveholding and large-scale capitalistic socialism (so-called). In this form we cannot discern so much as a trace of socialism. In the three varieties previously mentioned, we find at least some tincture of socialism, and we find in them a protest against oppression; but in the fourth variety, the one we are now considering, the 'socialism' is a mere word, fraudulently employed by those who want a new shuffle of the cards. This variety was introduced by bourgeois intellectuals and was taken over from them by the socialist advocates of class collaboration (and in part by Kautsky & Co.). Of such a character, for example, was the communism of Plato, the philosopher of ancient Greece. The essential characteristic of his system was that the slaveholders' organization would in 'comradely' fashion and 'jointly' exploit the mass of slaves who were to have no legal rights. As far as the slave-owners were concerned there would be perfect equality and all things would be held in common. The case of the slaves was to be very different; they were to become mere cattle. Obviously this has nothing whatever to do with socialism. A similar sort of 'socialism' has been advocated by certain bourgeois professors under the name of 'State socialism'. The only difference from Plato's variety is that contemporary proletarians have taken the place of the slaves, while the capitalist magnates sit in the seats of the mighty in place of the slaveowners. Here, likewise, there is no trace of socialism. We have State capitalism, based upon forced labour. To this matter we shall return.

Petty-bourgeois, agrarian, and lumpenproletarian socialism have one characteristic common to them all. Such varieties of non-proletarian socialism are outside the general course of evolution. The course of social evolution leads to the expansion of production. But in these nonproletarian varieties the whole trend is towards small-scale production. Inevitably, therefore, socialism of this kind is nothing more than a utopian dream. There is no likelihood of its actual realization.

§ 23 The dictatorship of the proletariat

For the realization of the communist system the proletariat must have all authority and all power in its hands. The prolet ariat cannot overthrow the old world unless it has power in its hands, unless for a time it becomes the ruling class. Manifestly the bourgeoisie will not abandon its position without a fight. For the bourgeoisie, communism signifies the loss of its former power, the loss of its 'freedom' to extort blood and sweat from the workers; the loss of its right to rent, interest, and profit. Consequently the communist revolution of the proletariat, the communist transformation of society, is fiercely resisted by the exploiters. It follows that the principal task of the workers' government is to crush this opposition ruthlessly. Precisely because the opposition will inevitably be so embittered, it is necessary that the workers' authority, the proletarian rule, shall take the form of a dictatorship. Now 'dictatorship' signifies very strict methods of government and a resolute crushing of enemies. It is obvious that in such a state of affairs there can be no talk of 'freedom' for everyone. The dictatorship of the proletariat is incompatible with freedom for the bourgeoisie. This is the very reason why the dictatorship of the proletariat is needed: to deprive the bourgeoisie of freedom; to bind it hand and foot; to make it impossible for it to carry on a struggle against the revolutionary proletariat. The more vigorous the resistance of the bourgeoisie, the more desperate the mobilization of its forces, the more threatening its attitude, the sterner and harsher must be the proletarian dictatorship. In extreme cases the workers' government must not hesitate to use the method of the terror. Only when the suppression of the exploiters is complete, when they have ceased to resist, when it is no longer in their power to injure the working class, will the proletarian dictatorship grow progressively milder. Meanwhile the bourgeoisie, little by little, will fuse with the proletariat; the workers' State will gradually die out; society as a whole will be transformed into a communist society in which there will be no classes.

Under the dictatorship of the proletariat (a temporary institution) the means of production will from the nature of the case belong, not to society as a whole, but only to the proletariat, to its State organization. For the time being, the working class, that is the majority of the population, monopolizes the means of production. Consequently there does not yet exist communist production in all its completeness. There still exists the division of society into classes; there is still a governing class (the proletariat); all the means of production are monopolized by this new governing class; there is still a State authority (the proletarian authority) which crushes its enemies. But as the resistance of the sometime capitalists, landlords, bankers, generals, and bishops, is crushed, in like measure the system of proletarian dictatorship will without any revolution undergo transformation into communism.

The dictatorship of the proletariat is not only an instrument for the crushing of enemies; it is likewise a lever for effecting economic transformation. Private ownership of the means of production must be replaced by social ownership; the bourgeoisie must be deprived of the means of production and exchange, must be 'expropriated'. Who will and can do this? Obviously no isolated individual could do it, even if he should be of proletarian origin. If it were to be done by an isolated individual or even by isolated groups of individuals, at the best it would be nothing more than a dividing up, and at the worst it would be a mere act of robbery. We understand, therefore, why the expropriation of the bourgeoisie must be effected by the organized power of the proletariat. Now this organized power takes the form of the dictatorial workers' State.

Objections to the dictatorship of the proletariat arise from various quarters. First of all come the anarchists. They say that they are in revolt against all authority and against every kind of State, whereas the communist bolsheviks are the sustainers of the Soviet Government. Every kind of government, they continue, involves the abuse of power and the limitation of freedom. For this reason it is necessary to overthrow the bolsheviks, the Soviet Government, the dictatorship of the proletariat. No dictatorship is necessary, no State is necessary. Such are the arguments of the anarchists. Only in appearance is their criticism revolutionary. In actual fact the anarchists do not stand more to the left, but more to the right than the bolsheviks. Why, indeed, do we need the dictatorship? We need it for the organized destruction of the bourgeois régime; we need it that we may crush the enemies of the proletariat by force. Quite openly we say, by force. The dictatorship is the axe in the hands of the proletariat. Anyone who is opposed to the dictatorship of the proletariat is one who is afraid of decisive action, is afraid of hurting the bourgeoisie, is no revolutionist. When we have completely vanquished the bourgeoisie, the need for the dictatorship of the proletariat will no longer exist. But as long as the life-and-death struggle continues it is absolutely incumbent upon the working class to crush its enemies utterly. AN EPOCH OF PROLETARIAN DICTATORSHIP MUST INEVITABLY INTERVENE BETWEEN A CAPITALIST AND A COMMUNIST SOCIETY.

Next, as objectors to the dictatorship, come the social democrats, and in especial the mensheviks. These worthies have completely forgotten what they wrote about the matter in former days. In our old programme, drawn up by ourselves and the mensheviks together, it is expressly stated: 'An essential condition of the social revolution is the dictatorship of the proletariat, that is to say the conquest of political power by the proletariat, which will enable the workers to crush all resistance on the part of the exploiters.' The mensheviks signed this statement. But when the time came for action, they raised a clamour against the crushing of the freedom of the bourgeoisie, against the suppression of bourgeois newspapers, against the bolshevist 'reign of terror', and so on. Even Plekhanoff, at one time, thoroughly approved of the most ruthless measures against the bourgeoisie, saying that we could deprive the bourgeois of their electoral rights, and so on. Nowadays the mensheviks have forgotten all this; they have taken refuge in the camp of the bourgeoisie.

Finally, a number of moral considerations are brought into the argument against us. We are told that we form our judgements like the savage Hottentots. The Hottentot says: 'When I steal my neighbour's wife, it is good; when he steals my wife, it is bad.' The bolsheviks, it is contended, resemble these savages, for they say: 'When the bourgeoisie uses force to crush the proletariat, it is bad; but when the proletariat uses force to crush the bourgeoisie, it is good.' Those who argue thus, do not know what they are talking about. In the case of the Hottentots we are concerned with two equal individuals who are stealing one another's wives for identical reasons. But the proletariat and the bourgeoisie are not on equal terms. Proletarians comprise an enormous class, bourgeois form a comparatively small group. The proletariat is fighting for the liberation of all mankind; but the bourgeoisie is fighting for the maintenance of oppression, wars, exploitation. The proletariat is fighting for communism, the bourgeoisie for the preservation of capitalism. If capitalism and communism were one and the same thing, then the bourgeoisie and the proletariat could be compared to the two Hottentots. The proletariat is fighting solely on behalf of the new social order. Whatever helps in the struggle is good; whatever hinders, is bad.

§ 24 The conquest of political power

The proletariat makes its dictatorship actual through the conquest of the State power. But what do we mean by the conquest of power? Many persons imagine that it is quite an easy matter to wrest power from the bourgeoisie, as easy as to transfer a ball from one pocket to another. First, power is in the hands of the bourgeoisie; then the proletariat will drive the bourgeoisie from power and will take the reins into its own hands. According to this view, the problem is not the creation of a new power, but the seizure of a power that already exists.

Such a notion is utterly false, and a very little reflection will show us where the error lies.

The State power is an organization. The bourgeois State power is a bourgeois organization, and in that organization people are assigned their roles in a distinctive manner. At the head of the army are generals, members of the wealthy class; at the head of the administration are ministers, members of the wealthy class; and so on. When the proletariat is fighting for power, against whom and what is it fighting? In the first place, against this bourgeois organization. Now when it is fighting this organization, its task is to deliver blows that will destroy the organization. But since the main strength of the government resides in the army, if we wish to gain the victory over the bourgeoisie, the first essential is to disorganize and destroy the bourgeois army. The German communists could not overthrow the régime of Scheidemann and Noske unless they could destroy the army of White Guards. If the opposing army remain intact, the victory of the revolution will be impossible; if the revolution be victorious, the army of the bourgeoisie will disintegrate and crumble. This, for example, is why the victory over tsarism signified no more than a partial destruction of the tsarist State and a partial decomposition of the army; but the victory of the November revolution denoted the final overthrow of the State organization of the Provisional Government and the total dissolution of the Kerenskyite army.

Thus the revolution destroys the old power and creates a new one, a different power from that which existed before. Of course the new power takes over some of the constituent parts of the old, but it uses them in a different way.

It follows that the conquest of State power is not the conquest of the pre-existent organization, but the creation of a new organization, an organization brought into being by the class which has been victorious in the struggle.

The practical importance of this question is enormous. The German bolsheviks, for example, have been reproached (as the Russian bolsheviks were formerly reproached) on the ground that they have led to disintegration in the army and have promoted indiscipline, have encouraged disobedience to officers. This used to be considered; and by many is still considered, a terrible charge. But there is nothing terrible about it. We must promote disintegration in an army which is ranged against the workers and is at the orders of the bourgeoisie, even though the latter consists of our fellow-countrymen. Failing this, the revolution will succumb. Consequently, there is nothing to be afraid of in working for the disintegration of such a bourgeois army; a revolutionist who destroys the State apparatus of the bourgeoisie may consider that he is doing excellent service. Where bourgeois discipline remains intact, the bourgeoisie is invincible. Those who wish to overthrow the bourgeoisie must not shrink from hurting it.

§ 25 The communist party and the classes of capitalist society

In order that the proletariat may gain the victory in any country, it is essential that it should be compact and well organized; it is essential that it should have its own Communist Party which has clearly recognized the trend of capitalist development, which has understood the actual situation and the true interests of the working class, which has adequately interpreted that situation, which is competent to marshal the ranks and to conduct the battle. Nowhere and at no time has any part been able to enrol all the members of the class which it represents; never has any class attained the requisite degree of consciousness. Generally speaking, those who organize themselves into a party are the most advanced members of a class; those who best understand their class interests; those who are most daring, most energetic, and most stubborn in the fight. For this reason, the number of adherents of the party is always considerably less than the number of those composing the class whose interests the party represents. Since, however, a party definitely represents the rightly interpreted interests of the class, parties usually play a leading role. The party leads the whole class, and the struggle between classes for power finds expression in the struggle between political parties for power. He who wishes to understand the nature of political parties must study the relationships of the various classes in capitalist society. Out of these relationships definite class interests arise. As we have already learned, the defence of class interests is the essential purpose of political parties.

Landowners. During the first period of capitalist development, agrarian economy was based upon the semi-slave labour of the peasants. The landowners leased lands to the peasants, receiving as rent payment either in money or in kind. One method of payment in kind was for the worker to spend half his time tilling the landowner's estate. The landowners as a class found it to their interest to prevent the peasants from going to the towns; they therefore resisted all innovation; they desired to maintain the old semi-slave conditions in the villages; they opposed the development of manufacturing industry. Such landowners possessed ancient patrimonial seigneurial domains; very few of them did any work on their own estates, and they lived for the most part like parasites on the backs of the peasants. As a result of this state of affairs, the parties representing the landowners have always been and still are the main props of reaction. These are the political parties that everywhere desire a return to the old order; they want to go back to the rule of the landlords, to restore the landlord-tsar (the monarch), to ensure the predominance of the 'blue-blooded gentry', to effect the complete enslavement of the peasants and the workers. They form what are known as the conservative parties; it would be more accurate to term them the reactionary parties. Since from time immemorial the officers of the army and the navy have been drawn from the ranks of the landed gentry, it is perfectly natural that landowners' parties should always be on the best of terms with generals and admirals. This is what we find in every country throughout the world.

As an example may be mentioned the members of the Prussian junker caste (in Germany, the great landowners are known as 'junkets') who send some of their sons into the officers' corps. Similarly in Russia we have our landed gentry, the so-called backwoodsmen, 'the aurochses', like some of the deputies to the duma - Markov the Second, Krupensky, and others. The tsarist council of state was largely composed of members of this landlord class. Most of the wealthy landowners belonging to. old families bear such titles as prince, count, etc.; they are the true descendants of ancestors who owned thousands of bondslaves. The landlords' parties in Russia were: the League of the Russian People; the Nationalist Party, led by Krupensky; the right Octobrists; etc.

The capitalist bourgeoisie. The interest of this class is to secure the greatest possible profits out of the developing 'national industry', that is to say out of surplus value extracted from the working class. Manifestly this interest does not fully coincide with that of the landowners. When capital makes its influence felt in village life, the old conditions are disturbed. The peasants are attracted into the towns; capital creates a vast proletariat, and it arouses new needs in the villages; the peasants, hitherto docile and quiet, grow 'unruly'. The landowners, the backwoodsmen, find these innovations unpleasing. On the other hand, the capitalist bourgeoisie regards them as full of promise. The more the workers are lured from the villages to the towns, the more wage labour, consequently, is available for the service of the capitalist, and the cheaper can the capitalist hire it. The more completely village life is ruined and the greater the extent to which the petty producers cease to produce various articles for themselves, the more essential do they find it to buy these products from the large-scale manufacturers. The more rapid, therefore, the disappearance of the old conditions in which the village produced everything for itself, the greater will be the expansion of the market for the sale of factory-produced commodities, and the higher will be the profits of the capitalist class.

For this reason the capitalist class rails at landlords of the old school. (There are, in addition, capitalist landlords; these run their estates with the help of wage labour and with the aid of machinery; their interests are closely akin to those of the bourgeoisie, and they usually adhere to the parties of the wealthier capitalists.) But of course the chief struggle of the capitalists is with the working class. When the working class is fighting mainly against the landlords and very little against the bourgeoisie, the latter eyes approvingly the struggle of the working class. This was the case in the year 1904, and in 1905 until October. But when the workers begin to realize their communist interests and to march against the bourgeoisie, then the bourgeoisie joins forces with the landlords against the workers. Everywhere, today, the parties of the capitalist bourgeoisie (the so-called liberal parties) are carrying on a fierce struggle against the revolutionary proletariat, and it is they who form the political general staff of the counter-revolution.

Among such parties in Russia, two may be mentioned. First of all we have the Party of Popular Freedom, also known as the Party of Constitutional Democrats; from the initials of its name (CD) its members are generally spoken of as the 'Cadets'. Secondly there are the Octobrists, who have now almost disappeared. Members of the industrial bourgeoisie, capitalist landlords, bankers, and the champions of all these (the major intelligentsia - university professors, successful lawyers and authors, factory managers, etc.) form the nuclei of these parties. In the year 1905 the Cadets were murmuring against the autocracy, but they were already afraid of the workers and the peasants; after the revolution of March 1917, they became the leaders of all the forces that were marshalled against the party of the working class, against the communist bolsheviks. In the years 1918 and 1919 the Cadets took the lead in all the plots against the Soviet Government, and they participated in the administrations of General Denikin and Admiral Kolchak. In a word, they led the bloody reaction, and finally they even formed a coalition with the landowners' parties. For under the pressure of the working class movement all groups of wealthy proprietors unite in a single camp of reactionaries, led by the most energetic section among them.

The urban petty bourgeoisie. To this group belong the independent artisans, the small shopkeepers, the minor intelligentsia comprising the salariat, and the lesser officialdom. In reality they do not constitute a class, but a motley crowd. All these elements are exploited more or less by capital, and they are often overworked. Many of them are ruined in the course of capitalist development. The conditions of their work, however, are such that for the most part they fail to realize how hopeless is their situation under capitalism. Let us consider, for instance, the independent artisan. He is an industrious as an ant. Capital exploits him in various ways: the usurer exploits him; the shop for which he works, exploits him; and so on. The artisan feels himself to be a 'master'; he works with his own tools, and in appearance he is 'independent', although in reality he is completely entangled in the web of the capitalist spider. He lives in the perennial hope of bettering himself, thinking always, ' I shall soon be able to extend my business, then I shall buy for myself'; he is careful not to mix with the workers, and in his manners he avoids imitating them, affecting the manners of the gentry, for he always hopes to become a 'gentleman' himself. Consequently, although he is as poor as a church mouse, he usually feels more akin to the man who exploits him than he does to the workers. The petty-bourgeois parties commonly assemble under the standard of the 'radicals' or the 'republicans', but sometimes under that of the 'socialists' (refer to the small-type paragraphs of §22). It is extremely difficult to shake such people out of this wrong attitude of mind, which is their misfortune not their fault.

In Russia, more commonly than elsewhere, the petty-bourgeois parties have been apt to wear a socialist mask. This was done by the populist socialists, the social revolutionaries, and in part by the mensheviks. It is necessary to point out that the social revolutionaries tended to rely mainly upon the middle peasants and the rich peasants for support.

The peasantry. In the rural districts, the peasantry occupies a position closely akin to that occupied by the petty bourgeoisie in the towns. It too, properly speaking, does not constitute a single class, for under capitalism it is continually splitting up into classes. In every village and hamlet we find that some of the peasants go to look for work in the towns, and thus in time become completely transformed into proletarians; others develop into wealthy and usurious peasants. The 'middle' peasants form an unstable stratum. Many of them are ruined in course of time; they become 'horseless men', and eventually seek work as agricultural labourers or as factory hands; others are more successful, 'get on in the world', gather wealth, become 'master peasants', hire agricultural labourers, make use of machinery - in a word, they are transformed into capitalist entrepreneurs. That is why we are entitled to say that the peasantry does not properly speaking form a single class. Among the peasants we must distinguish at least three groups. First we have the rich peasants, the master peasants, who constitute a rural bourgeoisie, for they are exploiters of wage labour. Next come the middle peasants, who work their own little farms and do not exploit wage labour. Thirdly and lastly, we have the poor peasants forming the rural semi-proletariat and proletariat.

It is easy to understand that the members of these respective groups, owing to the difference in their positions, will take different views of the class struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. The rich peasants are as a rule allied with the bourgeoisie, and very often with the great landlords as well. In Germany, for example, those who are termed 'great peasants' are united in a single organization with the priests and the landlords. We find the same thing in Switzerland and in Austria, and to some extent also in France. In Russia, during the year 1918, the rich peasants supported all the counter-revolutionary plots. Those belonging to the semi-proletarian and proletarian strata naturally back the workers in their struggle with the bourgeoisie and the rich peasants. As far as the middle peasants are concerned, the matter is much more complicated.

If the middle peasants would only realize that for the majority among them there is no way out under capitalism, that only a few of them can ever hope to become rich peasants, whereas most of them are fated to live in penury, then they would be ready to give unstinted support to the workers. But their misfortune lies in this, that the same thing happens to them as happens in the towns to the independent artisans and the members of the petty bourgeoisie. Every one of them, at the bottom of his heart, cherishes the hope of getting on, of growing rich. But, on the other hand, the middle peasant is oppressed by the capitalist, the money-lender, the landlord, and the rich peasant. The result is, as a rule, that the middle peasant seesaws between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. He is unable wholeheartedly to adopt the working class platform, but at the same time he is terribly afraid of the landowner.

This wobbling has been peculiarly plain in Russia. The middle peasants supported the workers against the landlords and the rich peasants. Then, growing afraid lest they should not be so well off in the 'commune', they listened to the advice of the rich peasants and opposed the workers. Still later, when danger threatened from the side of the landowning class (Denikin, Kolchak), they were once more inclined to espouse the cause of the workers.

The same vacillation has been displayed in the party struggle. At one time the middle peasants would adhere to the party of the workers, the party of the communist bolsheviks; at another time they would adhere to the party of the rich peasants, the party of the essers (social revolutionaries).

The working class (the proletariat). This class consists of those who 'have nothing to lose but their chains'. Not only are they exploited by the capitalists; but in addition, as we have already learned, the very course of capitalist development leads to their solidarization into a homogeneous power, consisting of persons accustomed to work together and to fight together. For this reason, the working class is the most progressive class in capitalist society. For this reason, likewise, the party of the working class is the most progressive, the most revolutionary party that can possibly exist.

It is natural, moreover, that the aim of this party should be to bring about the communist revolution. To this end, the proletarian party must be absolutely uncompromising. Its function is not to chaffer with the bourgeoisie, but to hurl the bourgeoisie from power and to crush the resistance of the capitalists. This party must 'reveal the absolute conflict of interests as between exploiters and exploited' (the words were used in our old programme, which was signed by the mensheviks; but, alas, the mensheviks have quite forgotten them, and are now hand in glove with the bourgeoisie).

What, however, should be the attitude of our party towards the petty bourgeoisie, towards the non-proletarian poorer strata of our large towns, and towards the middle peasants?

This is clear from what has been said above. We must never weary in our proofs and explanations, in order to convince them that their hopes for a better life under capitalism are the outcome of fraud by others or are due to their own self-deception. We must patiently and clearly demonstrate to the middle peasants that they ought unhesitatingly to enter the proletarian camp, and despite all difficulties fight shoulder to shoulder with the workers; it is our duty to show them that the only peasants to gain by the victory of the bourgeoisie will be the rich peasants, who will in that case become transformed into a new landlord class. In a word, we must bring all those who work, to make common cause with the proletariat; must enable all those who work, to see things from the working class point of view. Those who belong to the petty bourgeoisie and to the stratum of the middle peasants, are full of prejudices arising out of the conditions of their lives. It is our duty to reveal the true posture of affairs. We must show that the position of the artisan and of the working peasant under capitalism is quite hopeless, and that they had better give up trying to amuse themselves with fancy pictures. We must tell the middle peasant that as long as capitalism lasts there will always be a landlord riding on his back: either one of the gentry, the old type of landlord; or else a rich peasant, the landlord of the new type. In no other way than through the victory and the strengthening of the proletariat is there any possibility of rebuilding life on new foundations. But, since the victory of the proletariat can only be secured through the organization of the workers and through the existence of a strong, solid, and resolute party, we must draw into our ranks all those who labour, all those to whom the new life is dear, all those who have learned to think and to fight like proletarians.

How important the existence of a solid and militant communist party is, can be learned from the examples of Germany and Russia. In Germany, where the proletariat is highly developed, there was nevertheless prior to the war no such militant party of the working class as that of the communist bolsheviks in Russia. Only during the war did comrades Karl Liebknecht, Rosa Luxemburg, and others begin to found a distinctively communist party. This is why, during the years 1918 and 1919, notwithstanding a number of risings, the German workers proved unable to overthrow the bourgeoisie. In Russia, however, there existed our uncompromisingly communist party. Thanks to this the Russian proletariat was well led. Hence, despite all difficulties, the Russian proletariat was the first to secure a solid and speedy victory. In this respect our party may and does serve as an example to other communist parties. Its solidity and discipline are universally recognized. It is, in fact, the most militant party of the proletarian revolution, and as such it occupies the leading place.


Marx and Engels, The Communist Manifesto; Lenin, The State and Revolution; Plekhanov, The Centenary of the great French Revolution; Bogdanov, A short Course of Economic Science; Bebel, Woman and Socialism (The State of the Future); Bogdanov, The Red Star (utopian); Korsak, The Legalist Society and the Workers' Society (an essay in the collective work 'Papers on realistic Philosophy').

Concerning anarchism, the following works may be read: Volsky, The Theory and Practice of Anarchism; Preobrazhensky, Anarchism and Communism; Bazarov, Anarchist Communism and Marxism.

Concerning the classes of capitalist society, read: Kautsky, Class Interests.

Concerning the characteristics of the petty-bourgeois parties, read the following: Marx, The 18th Brumaire of Louis Napoleon Bonaparte; Marx, Revolution and Counter-Revolution in Germany; Marx, The Civil War in France.