N. Bukharin

The Program of the Communist International

(December 1922)

From International Press Correspondence, Vol. 2 No. 112, 14 December 1922, pp. 915–933.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Comrades, you are all aware that we shall not adopt a final program at this Congress, owing to the fact that many of our Parties have not defined their attitude towards this question. Even the Russian Party has not had the opportunity to discuss the draft which I now present to you. Therefore, most of the delegations are of the opinion that it will be more expedient not to adopt a final program at this Congress, but to discuss the program now and bring it up for adoption at the next Congress. The fact, however, that we nave placed so important and difficult a question as that of an International program on the agenda of the World Congress, is in itself the best evidence of our mighty growth. We may express our perfect confidence that the Communist International will also solve this problem, whereas in the camp of our adversaries of the Second and Two and a Half Internationals we observe complete theoretical impotence. (Clara Zetkin: Perfectly true)

Before dealing with the various questions before me I will first of all take up the fundamental questions of the theory and program of the Second International before the war. The thesis which I propound is that the theory upon which the Second international was based before the war was responsible for its collapse during the war. Generally we may distinguish three phases in the development of the Marxian theory and its ideological construction: the first phase was the Marxism of Marx and Engels themselves, then followed the second phase which was the Marxism of the Second International, the Marxism of its founders. At the present time we have the third phase of Marxism: the Bolshevik or Communist Marxism which is to a large extent reverting back to the original Marxism of Marx and Engels. The original Marxism of Marx and Engels was the child of the European revolution of 1848 and therefore possessed a highly revolutionary spirit.

This revolutionary character of the Marxian theory is explained by the fact that the doctrines of Marx and Engels were evolved at a time when the whole of Europe was in the throes of revolution and the proletariat as a revolutionary class was entering the arena of world history. Then followed a different period and with a different ideological tendency. This entire historic development once more demonstrates to us what we observe in the history of nearly all ideologies, namely, that an ideology which has been born under certain conditions will under different conditions assume a different expression and develop into a different form. This is what occurred with the Marxian doctrine. Following the revolutionary epoch of the middle of last century, an entirely different historic epoch in the development of the capitalist system set in. It was the epoch of the gigantic growth of capitalism. This growth was chiefly based upon the colonial policy of the bourgeoisie, and the stupendous development of continental industry was chiefly stimulated by the exploitation of the colonial peoples. This growth and prosperity of continental industry caused a variety of social re-alignments within the European nations. The position of the working class was strengthened in the economic sense of the word. At the same time capitalist development created a considerable community of interests between the bourgeoisie and the continental working class. This community of interests between the continental bourgeoisie and the continental proletariat was the basis for a great psychological and ideological tendency manifesting itself within the working class, and, ergo, within the Socialist Parties.

Then came the second phase in the development of Marxism namely, the phase of Social-Democratic Marxism, the well known Marxism of the Marxist theoreticians. The struggle between the orthodox tendency and the reformist tendency, the great struggle between orthodox social democracy represented by Kautsky on the one hand against the Revisionists as represented by Edouard Bernstein on the other – ended in the triumph of orthodox Marxism. However, when we look back on the entire history of this struggle, the complete surrender of orthodox Marxism to Revisionist Marxism stands clear before our eyes. I support the thesis that in this struggle, which took place a long time before the war, so-called orthodox Marxism, i.e., the Marxism of Karl Kautsky, surrendered to Revisionism in the most fundamental theoretical questions. This we failed to notice. Now we see clearly and distinctly, and thoroughly comprehend the underlying reasons of this phenomenon. Let us tor instance consider the question of the impoverishment theory! You are all aware that Kautskian Marxism argued this question in a milder form than that in which it was stated by Marx himself. It was asserted that in the epoch of capitalist development the working class suffers a relative deterioration of its condition; that the inherent law of capitalist development consists in that the condition of the working class improves, but in relation to the condition of the bourgeoisie, it deteriorates: Thus Kautsky defended this apparently Marxian view against the attacks of Bernstein. I consider this interpretation of Kautsky incorrect and contend that this theoretical position is based on an empirical view of the conditions of the European and the American working class. Marx, however, in his theory analyzed an abstract capitalist development which leads to a deterioration of the condition of the working class. What did Kautskian Marxism do? By the term working class it understood exclusively the continental working class.

The condition of these strata of the proletariat went on improving, but Kautskian Marxism did not realize that this improvement in the condition of the continental working classes was bought at the price of the annihilation and spoliation of the colonial peoples. Marx was speaking of capitalist society as a whole. Now, if we wish to be somewhat more concrete than Marx we should not confine our scope of observation to the American and European countries, but should extend it to world economy as a whole. In that case we would obtain a totally different theoretical picture from the one that has been drawn by Kautsky and his followers. Thus, from the theoretical standpoint Kautsky’s thesis was not correct. It was an act of surrender to the attack of Revisionism. Let us now take up another question, the theory of collapse and the rising of the proletariat. This catastrophic theory of collapse was much softened down by Kautsky in his controversy with the Revisionists. With regard to the Revolution, the result of the collapse, we notice even in the more revolutionary of Kautsky's writings, (e.g. his The Road to Power), a great number of really comical passages, of preposterously exaggerated opportunism, Let us take, for instance, his varying opinions on the general strike in his book on The Social Revolution, where Kautsky asserts that if we are in a position to make the revolution then we need no general strike. If not we do not need one either. What does it mean? It means nothing but pure opportunism, which we did not quite notice before, but which we see quite clearly now.

Let us take the third theoretical question, namely, the theory of the State. Here I shall have to speak at somewhat greater length. On the outbreak of the war we thought that Kautskianism had suddenly betrayed its own theories. This is what we thought and wrote at the time. But we were wrong. We can now quite calmly admit that we were wrong. Quite the contrary happened: the so-called betrayal by the social democrats and the Kautskians was based on the theory which these theoreticians had already maintained before the outbreak of the war. What were their statements about the State and the conquest of political power by the proletariat? They represented the case as though there were some object which had been in the hands of one class, and later passed into the possession of another class. This was also the way Kautsky saw it.

Let us now take the case of the imperialist war. If we now consider the State as a homogeneous instrument which changed hands in passing from one epoch to another, i.e., as almost a neutral thing, then it is perfectly conceivable that we should protect this instrument on the outbreak of war when the proletariat has the prospect of conquering the State in this manner. During the World War the question of protecting the State was brought to the forefront. This idea was thought out to its logical conclusions. and it was quite a logical consequence of this theory when Kautsky raised the question of National defence and answered that question in the affirmative.

The same with the question of the dictatorship of the proletariat. Even in debate with the Revisionists Kautsky never developed this question. He almost failed to say a single word upon this most important question and most important problem during the whole of that controversy. He said something to the effect that this question would be solved by future generations. That was his way of “stating the problem”.

Comrades, when we examine these mental excursions and attempt to discover in them the sociological equivalent, we must declare that we have here an alleged Marxian ideology that was based on the aristocratic position of these strata of the continental workers, whose improved condition was secured by the spoliation of the colonial workers. This Thesis on the sociological basis of Kautskianism is indeed admitted by the theoreticians of the Second International. These fellows have become so arrogant that they no longer need to wear a mask. In his treatise on the problem Kautsky makes this very diagnosis and sees nothing had in the fact that:

“Indeed the proletariat is not quite homogeneous. We have already seen that it is divided into two strata: In the first place are those that are exceptionally favoured by economic circumstances or by legislation, who are strongly organized and are in a position to defend their interests; these are the superlative part of the proletariat, its “aristocracy” capable of successfully resisting the oppressive tendencies of capitalism, because to them the struggle against capitalism is not merely a struggle against poverty but a struggle for power.”

This contradistinction between the struggle against poverty and the struggle for power is also a “very Marxian” figure of speech! He goes on to say!

“By the side of these well disciplined, trained and efficient (i.e., licking the boots of generals) troops there stands the great army of those (mark you, he cannot deny this) that are placed in such unfavourable circumstances that they are not yet in a position to organize themselves and to overcome the oppressive tendencies of capitalism. These remain in poverty and sink deeper and deeper in the mire.”

Kautsky further on makes attempts to define his differences from us, the Communist International, who not rely upon the labour aristocracy but on the most oppressed strata and this is what he has to say on the question:

“Thanks to its ignorance and inexperience, is ardent longing for improved conditions and liberty, it easily becomes the prey of all demagogues (i.e., the communists) who either deliberately or lightmindedly (this is his sociological analysis), will coax it by means of tempting promises into the fight against the trained and well organized elements that are accustomed to choosing their battleground and to take up only such tasks as they are well prepared and trained for”, and so forth and so forth.

There is a novel by Jack London, The Iron Heel, Jack London, who is not a particularly good Marxist, understood quite well the problem of the modern labor movement. He saw well that the bourgeoisie not only attempted but actually succeeded in splitting the working class into two parts by corrupting the part, namely the trained and skilled part of the proletarian, using this labor aristocracy as a means for suppressing upheaval of the working class. What Jack Loudon ably depicted from the point of view of the workers is not understood by theoreticians of the Second International. They exploit the tragedy of the working class – its internal division to support bourgeois society. This constitutes the function of Social Democracy, Now, after many years of war and revolution these fellows are shameless enough to rake up this muck and to giver it a theoretical basis. The sociological basis of this Kautskian Marxism is so clear that one would think that it could not any clearer. Yet, on considering this problem once more in the form that it had been presented in the theories of the Second International, we obtain an even clearer picture. On reading their new publications, especially the blest book of Kautsky, we do not find a single word about the all-important problem of the theory of impoverishment. It is absolutely inconceivable that at a time when the tendency of capitalism stands out in all prominence, when everything is at the straining point, when we witness the discarding of all masks, that Kautsky should not have a word to say on the most important problem. But on reading some of their other writings, apart from the book of Kautsky, we find the key to the solution of this mystery of silence. There is a book in Germany that has been specially written for the young; by a certain Herr Abraham. This book has been widely spread among the young people and I believe translated into other languages. This gentleman states his thesis quite arrogantly and cynically: “Marxism was saved by Revisionism!” He tells us that we need no Marxist theory, for the revisionism of Bernstein has saved for the working class the true elements of Marxism. This is his main thesis. The gentleman goes on to analyse the position of the working class, and attempts to say something about our communist assertion and he advances the following two Theses (!) “the case was not so previously, the conditions were always improving”. He ignores the colonial peoples and the coolies. His second is even more striking: “The present situation, with the currency chaos, with the real impoverishment of some strata, is such that it cannot be analysed from the standpoint of any sociological laws”. Thus, we are not in a position to analyse these things. If we should consider this as a serious statement, we would say: Give us a mystical explanation, made up both of mystics and mist (laughter). The tactical sense is that these fellows seek to evade the argument before the working class by the silly assertion that we are not in a position to explain the present situation, that the situation is so complex that we cannot understand anything. The real reason why they cannot understand is because we are now in the period when the theory of collapse is working out in actual practice.

They are unable to analyse the revolution, they cannot produce an analysis that would furnish the basis for practical revolutionary decisions. They are evasive when they say: There is no logic in the events of our time.

Let us take, for instance, the theory of the crisis. With regard to this theory, Kautsky asserts that in our present theoretical consideration of the development of the capitalist system, we should admit quite frankly that the theory of crises should assume “more modest dimensions” in our argument. What does it mean? It means that Kautsky asserts that the capitalist world has become more harmonious in recent times. This assertion is naturally the embodiment of pure stupidity. The facts prove the contrary. We now find complete vindication of the theses and the theory of crises has been proven up to the hilt. We can even maintain now that the war itself was a specific form of economic crisis, and it is this specific form that we should theoretically conceive and theoretically analyse. And when these fellows now discuss the revolution, a real flesh and blood proletarian revolution, they say: This is not a true revolution; we will wait for a “real” revolution. There are bourgeois scholars who deny leaps in nature and science, although these are empirical fads. Thus, when Kautsky says: “The revolution in Russia has been achieved, but it is not a proletarian, not a real, true revolution.” We are in the midst of the collapse, the greatest crisis known in history, yet he does not see the crisis when he declares: “In our theoretical consideration of the theory of crises we ought to be more modest.” These are simply the ravings of opportunists gone mad, who have completely lost the sense for realities, who pretend to discuss the logic of history when their own brain is bereft thereof. One of these gentlemen, for instance, goes so far as to say that capitalism has emerged even stronger from the war. Here you have the “theoretical proportions.” The ordinary liberals, the pacifists, the clericals, the bourgeois economists, nearly all of them, more or less, understand the economic weakness of the capitalist world. Not one of them denies it. Nevertheless, we have a social democrat, a supposed Marxian, who comes along to tell us that capitalism has even been strengthened by the war. This sounds almost like an exhortation in favour of a new war. If capitalism becomes stronger in consequence of a war, then it should he tried once more! This comical standpoint is now maintained in all seriousness by theoreticians of the Second International.

Let us now proceed to the theory of the State. This theory of the Stale has now been transformed by all the theoreticians of the Second International, without exception, into a direct plea for a bourgeois republic. Not a single attempt has been made at understanding anything, not a single idea, it is but a pure plea for the bourgeois republic. It is no use arguing with these people; they are absolutely hopeless; they only know one thing: to plead for a bourgeois republic. In this respect there is absolutely no difference between the bourgeois liberal scholars and the social democrats. On reading the writings of Cunow, for instance, we find that some of the bourgeois professors, like Franz Oppenheimer and others notably those of the Gumplovitz school, are much nearer to the Marxian position than he. Cunow in his book claims the State to be a sort of universal welfare institution, a good father to all its children, whether of the working class or of the bourgeoisie. So the matter stands. I once said that this is a theory that was represented by the Babylonian king Hamurabi. And this is the theoretical level of the representatives and principal sages of the Second International.

But there are theoretical betrayals which are even more flagrant and ignominious. I refer to the conception of Kautsky with regard to the proletarian revolution and to the coalition government. To write such stuff one has indeed to lose the last vestige of theoretical consciousness. Take for instance, Kautsky’s theory about the revolution. Do you know what is his latest discovery on this question?

  1. The bourgeois revolution has to act by violence.
  2. The proletarian revolution, precisely because it is a proletarian revolution, must not employ violence, or, as another of these gentlemen has said, violence is always a reactionary force.

We know what Engels has written about the revolution, in an Italian article entitled Dell' Autorità. He wrote “The revolution is the most authoritative thing in the world; for revolution means an historic event, when one part of the population imposes its will upon the other part of the population by means of bayonets, guns and rifles”. Such was the conception of revolutionary Marxism. And now we hear what the miserable Herr Kautsky has to tell us: “Bayonets, guns and other means of violence are purely bourgeois means. They have not been invented by the proletariat, but by the bourgeoisie. The barricade is a pure bourgeois institution.” In this way one could argue almost anything. Kautsky might, for instance, say: “Before the bourgeoisie fought with ideas, consequently this is a purely bourgeois method: It would follow then that we must discard all ideas.” Perhaps Kautsky has discarded all ideas now. It would be really ridiculous to adopt such a method of reasoning.

Now we come to the question of the coalition. Here we reach the apex of all the discoveries of Kautsky. Kautsky believes himself to be the representative of orthodox Marxism. Marx maintained that the spirit of his teaching consisted in the doctrine of the proletarian dictatorship. There is a passage in Marx which reads: “The class struggle was known to many others before me, but my teaching consists in the knowledge that the development of capitalism leads inevitably to the dictatorship of the proletariat.” This was the way Marx himself conceived his theory. This is the sum and substance of the Marxian doctrine. Now listen to what Kautsky writes: “In his famous article on the criticism of social-democratic program, Marx wrote:

“Between the capitalist and the communist society intervenes the revolutionary stage of transition from one into the other. This has its corresponding period of political transition, when the State can he nothing else but the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat.”

So said Marx.

And Kautsky, what has he to say? Let me quote him literally:

“This sentence we should now modify on the basis of our recent experiences, and on the question of Government we should say:

“Between the time of live pure bourgeois and the time of the pure proletarian democratic State, there is a |period of transition from one into the other. This has its corresponding period of political transition, when the Government as a rule should take the form of a coalition government.”

This is indeed not a form of transition from Marxism to Revisionism, but it is even worse than the purest Revisionism. Here we have to deal with a number of betrayals. Marx could see communism at the other end of the transition period. Kautsky sees none. He tells us of transition from the pure capitalist government to a pure democratic proletarian government, but where does communism come in? He provides no room for communism. Besides, we may judge for ourselves as to what is the real purpose of this substituting of coalition for dictatorship. It is therefore not at all surprising when some bourgeois theoreticians declare quite sensibly that there is nothing left of Marxism in the minds of the theoreticians of the Second Inter national.

There is, for instance, in Germany a certain, wise, but very cynical professor flans Delbrueck, who, after a perusal of various writings of the Second International, in an article in one of the issues of the Prussian Year Book wrote literally as follows:

“The difference between us bourgeois social political thinkers and them (meaning Kautsky etc.) is only one of degree. A few more steps along this road, gentlemen, and the communist mist will have dispersed.”

This is a very good quotation. A bourgeois professor, an adherent of Kaiser Wilhelm, tells the theoreticians of pseudo-Marxism, of a pseudo-“international” and of “revolutionary” social democracy that there is no difference between bourgeois thinkers and Kautsky and Co. This is a quotation which throws a clear light upon the whole situation. Even in theory there seems to be an element of tactics and strategy, which corresponds to the actual political tactics and strategy. On the social chessboard with its different classes, parties, groups, and sub-groups, we sustained many set-backs and the greatest of them, was the splitting up of the proletariat in consequence of the political betrayal of the social-democratic parties and the leaders of the trade unions, which brought about a bloc of some of the elements of the labor movement with the bourgeoisie. On a line with this process we witnessed also a theoretical bloc between the pseudo-Marxists and the bourgeois philosophers. Such is the situation we now behold in the theories of the Second International. Both in theory and in practice it is only the Communist International that represents the truly revolutionary standpoint, and consequently the Communist International alone represents the real theory of Marxism.

I now turn to another question. Having disposed of the theoreticians of the Second International, I wish to say a few words on the new analysis of the present epoch, with particular reference to a point which has not been as yet fully elucidated. First of all, I will put the question: From what point of view is it most advisable to examine the development of capitalism as a whole? There must indeed be some kind of a theoretical pivot in the consideration of the entire process of capitalist development. What pivot shall we choose! We naturally have several to chose from. We can either regard the position of the working class as being the definite crystallisation of the concentration of capital, or we can construct our program from the standpoint of the formation of new elements of society or some other features of capitalist development. But I think that the capitalist development as a whole should be considered from standpoint of the expanded reproduction of capitalist contradictions, and it is from this standpoint that we ought to consider the process of capitalist development. We have now readied a stage of development when capitalism is breaking up. To some extent we already consider capitalist development as in retrospect, but this does not prevent us from considering all the events of the capitalist epoch, including even the prognostic, from the standpoint of the steady and constant reproduction of capitalist contradictions. The war is the expression of the contradictions inherent in capitalist competition. We ought to explain the meaning of war solely as the expanded reproduction of the anarchic structure of capitalist society. If this accentuation of the contradictions has already led to the impossibility of continued existence of capitalist society, this standpoint can also serve the purpose of elucidating all the other questions, such as the grouping of the working class, the social divisions of society, the position of the working class and the structure of modern society.

The second question to my mind is the question of imperialism. I am not going into a complete analysis of the entire epoch of imperialism, because the theoretical answer to this question is quite obvious to us as communists. I only wish to emphasise a point which I consider of importance, namely, “How are the specific forms of the policy of violence of financial capital to be explained? Many explanations have been given. It was explained by the monopolist character of capitalism and by other things. Yet I think there is still another very important factor in the answer to this question. Political economy in the past, including also the Marxian theory, treated the subject of capitalist contradiction as something peculiar to industrial capitalism. It was an epoch of competition between the various industrialists whose methods consisted of lowering the price of commodities. This is almost the only sort of competition mentioned by Marx. But m the epoch of imperialist capitalism we find many other forms of competition wherein the method of reducing prices is of no significance. When a coal syndicate, for instance, fights an iron syndicate for surplus value, it is to be assumed that these syndicates will not resort to the method of reducing prices. It would be preposterous to assume that they would tight exclusively by means of some violent method like the boycott, etc. The main groups of the bourgeoisie are now in the nature of trustified groups within the framework of the State. They are nothing else but combined enterprises.

It is quite conceivable that such a form of enterprise, such a construction of competing groups, should resort chiefly to violent methods of competition. The international sub-division of labour, the existence of agrarian and industrial countries, the various combinations of industrial branches within the same imperialist State, bring about a situation where no other policy can be adopted. The policy of low prices is almost an impossibility. Thus arise the new forms of competition which lead to military attack by the State.

I would now like to touch upon a third point that ought to be mentioned in the program, namely, the emphasizing of the role of the State in general, and the role of the State at the present moment in particular. We should admit quite frankly that the Marxian theory, and even orthodox Marxism, did not investigate the question of the State quite thoroughly. We know that some of our past leaders have tackled this question and solved it in a treacherous manner. But we should ask ourselves whether there have been any revolutionary Marxists who have made a thorough study of the question. What does it mean? It means that the Marxist theory was evolved during a period strongly tinged with Manchester hues. Free competition reigned supreme. This situation had its roots in the specific conditions of the epoch. But this should not satisfy us. The role of the State is very important from all points of view, from the standpoint of the bourgeoisie as well as from the standpoint of the proletariat. On the one hand we are to destroy an organisation, and it is therefore important for us to know the situation as it existed previously so that we may create something of economic relations. All these circumstances should urge upon us the necessity of emphasising the question of the State and giving it prominent place in our program.

I would further urge that we include in our program something about the monopoly of education by the ruling class. We used to ignore this question in discussing our programs in the past, but now, when the proletariat is striving for power and for the reorganization of society, such questions as the training of our officials and administrators, the standard of education of our leaders before and after the conquest of power, must play an important part. All these questions are of great importance, yet they were never discussed before, because they did not appear to us to be practical questions. Now they have become absolutely practical questions, and for this reason we should give more place to this question than we have given before.

I think that in our program we should touch upon the question of the specific symptoms of the maturing of socialism within the capitalist society. It is a classical passage in the Marxian doctrine, that the germs of the new society are generated in the womb of the old. But this theory has caused so much confusion in the ranks of the Second International that we should state the question more concretely than we did before. I cannot touch upon the question in its entirety, but this much I would like to say: We all know that the proletarian revolution imposes many demands upon us, that the proletarian revolution is at times accompanied by deterioration of productive forces. This is an inherent law of proletarian revolution. But our opponents want to tell us that this is due to the fact that, capitalism is not yet ripe for socialism. This is their main theoretical thesis in which they confuse the maturing of capitalism within the feudal system with the maturing of socialism within the capitalist society. But we want to emphasise the difference of principle between the two phenomena. At all events, we should lay down the conditions of the construction of socialist society. The difference between the two types of maturing consists in that capitalism has grown out of the feudal system from A to Z. The whole apparatus of society from the workers the ruling bourgeoisie had grown to maturity within the system. Socialism could never, even under the most favorable conditions, grow out of capitalism in such a manner. It is impossible for the working class to gain control of production within the capitalist society. It is nonsense; it is a flagrant contradiction. For this reason the special features of the maturing of socialism within the capitalist society are totally different in character from the maturing of capitalism within the feudal system. Indeed how is the proletariat, without economic, political and cultural preparation, without its own engineers etc., to run the new State if obtained, without previously having established the dictatorship of the proletariat? It is only after the revolution that the proletariat breaks open the doors of the higher institutions of learning We must admit that at present the proletariat is relatively untrained, ignorant and backward, as compared with the bourgeoisie. It means that the proletariat cannot become the mature organiser of society within capitalism. The proletariat can become the leader of society as a whole, the real creative genius of society, only after the Dictatorship. It cannot be in any other way. This is the cardinal difference between the maturing of capitalism and the development of socialism that we ought to emphasise. Our opponents entertain the foolish idea that we could mature within the bourgeois society just as capitalism grew out of feudalism. Unfortunately, this is not the case, and we should always bear in mind the specific difference between the two situations.

I would further like to touch upon one more point which has not been sufficiently analysed, even in our literature, namely the problem of growing into the socialist state. The Revisionists have spoken much about this problem of growing into the socialist state. The revisionist conception was that the capitalist state would gradually evolve into socialism. It cannot be gainsaid that we will not accomplish our aims by means of decrees alone, that it will be a lengthy process of organization before we really establish our socialist state. But the difference between us and the Revisionists is on the point of time when this evolution begins. The revisionists, who do not want the revolution, maintain that this process begins within the capitalist state. We saw that it begins only after the proletariat has established as dictatorship. The proletariat should first of all destroy the old bourgeois State and seize power, and by this means change the economic relations. Here we have a long process of development when the socialist forms of production and distribution grow continuously, displacing all the remnants of capitalist economy, until the total transformation of the capitalist State into the socialist State is accomplished. There is yet another point which has direct bearing on the preceding question, namely the question of the national types of socialism, as a form of production, of course. Before the revolution we discussed methods of systematic production, collective economy, etc., without having any concrete idea. Now, particularly after the experiences of the Russian Revolution, we see that we have before us a long period of various national types of socialist production. Let us, for instance, compare French capitalism with American capitalism French capitalism has its special features that distinguish it from American Capitalism. Let us compare the nature of the usurious capitalism as compared with the refined financial capitalism of America, or the history of the syndicates and trusts in Germany and England. These are different ways and different methods. All this, of course, becomes obliterated in the course of time along with the development of world economy. But socialism can grow exclusively upon that which is already in existence, an therefore it may be assumed that the various socialist forms will in a certain sense be the continuation of the previous capitalist forms, but under a different aspect: which means that the specific features of capitalism of the different countries will find their expression in the specific forms of socialist production in those countries. Later on, of course, these differences will be obliterated by the onward march of proletarian rule. The initial stage of development, in all countries, even after the conquest of political power by the proletariat, will still have its various forms in socialist production. We may frankly state that Russian socialism will appear as Asiatic in comparison with the others. The backwardness of our industry and agriculture and our retarded economic development will surely find their expression in the backward forms of our socialism. If we take all this into consideration, we may then pass to the discussion of other questions, such as the question of the new economic policy. This is the eighth point upon which I intended to say a few words here. This new economic policy may be viewed from the totally different standpoints, from the standpoint of revolutionary tactics or from the standpoint of economic rationalism. These are two standpoints which do not always appear to be identical. From the tactical standpoint we have already heard the views of several comrades, including Comrades Lenin and Trotzky. I would like to examine this question from the standpoint of economic rationalism.

I maintain that the proletariat of every individual country, alter gaining political power, will be confronted by the important problem of economic organization, the problem of proportion between the forms of production, which the proletariat should organize upon a rational plan. This is the most important economic problem with which the proletariat will be confronted. If the proletariat fails to fix this proportion aright, if it undertakes too much, it will eventually be confronted by the situation in which the productive forces will not be developed, but rather hampered. The proletariat is not in a position to organize everything. The proletariat cannot carry out plans for the forcible displacement of small peasants and the individual traders. The proletariat, by arbitrarily removing these strata can really gain no material compensation. It would only mean a blocking of the channels of circulation and the further shrinking of the productive forces, which would mean the continued dilapidation of the economic life of the country.

There is yet another drawback in the proletariat undertaking great schemes without due appreciation of the rational facts of economics. If the proletariat should try to control too much, it would require a gigantic administrative machine, with too many officials and functionaries to take the place of these small producers, small peasants, etc., in their economic functions. This attempt of substituting petty officialdom for these petty producers would eventually produce a tremendous bureaucratic machine which will be more cosily than profitable. We would eventually have a form of administration, where the entire economic machinery of the proletarian State does not mean the development of the productive forces, but the hampering of the development of the productive forces; in other words, the very opposite of what it ought to be. Such a bureaucratic machine would have to be stopped either through a counter-revolution of the small peasantry, or by the Party stepping in and reorganizing the whole thing, as has been the case here in Russia. If the proletariat does not perform the necessary operation it will be done by other forces. This should be fully realized by all our Comrades.

I therefore say the new economic policy is on the one hand a specific Russian phenomenon, yet on the other hand it is also a universal phenomenon. It is not exclusively a strategic retreat, but it is also the solution of a great problem of social organization, namely the proportion between the various branches of production which we should rationalize, and the branches of production which we are not able to rationalize. Comrades, let us be frank. We have made the attempt of organizing everything here, even the peasants and the millions of small producers. The result was that we had a gigantic bureaucratic machine which incurred tremendous administrative expenditures, reached a political crisis, and finally we were compelled, in order to save ourselves, as Comrade Lenin has stated quite frankly, in order to save the cause of the whole proletariat to introduce this new economic policy. This is by no means, as some comrades are inclined to think, something in the nature of a shameful disease that should be concealed. It is not merely a concession to the opponent who is fighting us with all his forces, it is also the correct solution of a problem of social organization. Frankly stated, it amounts to this. When under the old economic policy we witnessed incidents of our Red Militia in Moscow dispersing some old women selling bread, etc., it was from the standpoint of rational economy, a madhouse. And when this was properly understood, the madhouse had to be transformed into something better. Some comrades are inclined to think that it was a sin from the standpoint of orthodox Marxism. It was not our sin, but it was the necessary corrective on the part of our Party of mistakes which we committed in our first proletarian revolution owing to our inexperience and ignorance. This is our view on the question. And I say: the problem of the new economic policy is of International importance. The specific Russian aspect consists, of course, in the proportion that we could rationalise and those that we could not.

We have a great many peasants, small producers, etc. But if we take the most developed industrial countries, say Germany or America, do you think that this problem would not bubble up even there? Indeed, it would at once. Could we, for instance, proceed right away with the organization of the American farmers? Of course not! For such strata the free economic movement should remain. The same would be the case in Germany. Do you believe that the victorious proletariat would at once be able to organise on a communist basis all the bourgeois economies, particularly in Bavaria? Of course not! Do you know what the peasant will tell you when you will demand of him the surrender of his grain. He will tell you that he wants to be free to sell it as he sees fit. For this reason this problem ought to be constantly kept in mind also in Germany, giving due consideration to the question, to what extent should economy be socialised, and to what extent should it be allowed freedom. Such is the scope of the new economic policy. But this problem is also connected, with yet a different problem. It happens that in a revolution the principle of economic rationalism clashes with another principle, that is of equal importance to the proletariat, namely the principle of the pure political expediency. Of this I have frequently quoted examples. For instance, if for the purpose of erecting barricades you saw down telegraph posts, it stands to reason that you are not thereby increasing the productive forces. (Laughter) The same thing happens in a revolution. For instance, it the capitalist bourgeoisie lets loose all its forces against you and has its agents among the petty bourgeoisie who directly carry out the orders of the big bourgeoisie, what should the proletariat do? The proletariat must at all costs destroy these petty bourgeois alliances with the big bourgeoisie. As the struggle develops, it is bound to remove also the economic basis of this petty bourgeoisie. Here we get the irrational thing, which is economically inexpedient. but which from the standpoint of the political struggle and the triumph in the civil war is quite a means to an end. These two standpoints, economic rationalism and political expediency, are not at all identical, frequently they come into collision. The prime consideration, however, should be political expediency, if only for the reason that it is impossible to build up socialism without previously establishing the proletarian State. But we must always use our discretion and refrain from doing anything superfluous, anything that is inexpedient from the standpoint of the political struggle and irrational from the economic standpoint. I cannot naturally go on developing these ideas, but the problem is quite obvious, and it can be examined in the light of the different classes, strata, and groups of the body politic. Here again we have to consider our attitude to the middle class, to the so-called intelligentzia, i.e., to the new middle class, then again our attitude to the various sections of the peasantry. All this, we have to provide for in our program. At the same time we naturally want to get the full value of the experiences of the Russian Revolution, for it were folly if we failed to make good use of the experience of the greatest revolution.

I now come to the fourth sub-section, which I designate as the new universal tactical problems. So far, I was examining various problems of a purely theoretical nature, now I wish to discuss also some problems which are of a universal tactical character, and which in a sense should be designated as programmatical.

Firstly, quite briefly, on the question of the colonies. For this question we must devote more space in our program than we have done hitherto. (Quite right) We arc now making the attempt to write an International program. The aristocratic flavor of the books of Kautsky and Co. has to be blotted out. We must understand that in the process of world revolution we have our reserves in the colonial countries which are of the greatest importance. We must therefore deal with this question far more exhaustively than has been the case hitherto.

The second tactical problem is that of National Defence. This problem was to us, communists, quite clear from the outbreak of the war, and our attitude was almost a flat rejection of the national defence, but now we see something modified and more complex. The essential complicating factor in this question is the fact that in one country we have a proletarian dictatorship; and the existence of a proletarian State changes immediately the whole situation. Above all, we as Marxists and dialecticians should take full stock of such changes in the situation. I will only quote one instance. When we were a revolutionary opposition party it was quite natural that we could not think for a moment of any bourgeois State advancing us money to aid our revolutionary activity. It would have been sheer folly to expect it. The moment we obtained money from any hostile power, the whole of our cause would have been discredited. The International bourgeoisie therefore handled this problem quite properly from its own standpoint when it attempted to misrepresent us as the agents of German imperialism, or Karl Liebknecht as the agent of the French bourgeoisie. We were always aware of this, and we never countenance the idea of receiving enemy aid of any kind. But now when a proletarian State exists and is in a position to contract a loan from some bourgeois state, it would be foolish to reject it on principle. I am quoting this merely as a small example of the various questions of principle that arise from the moment that a proletarian State comes into existence.

It is the same with the question of national defence. It is quite clear what is meant by a proletarian country, i.e., the proletarian State (for in all these questions the word nation is synonymous with the word State, with the respective class characteristic). When the bourgeoisie speaks of national defence, it means the defence of the bourgeois State; and when we speak of national defence we mean the defence of the Proletarian State. It ought therefore to be stated clearly in our program that the proletarian State should and must be protected not only by the proletariat of this country, but also by the proletariat of all countries. This is the new situation of the question where it differs from the situation at the outbreak of the war. The second question is: should the proletarian States, for reasons of the strategy of the proletariat as a whole, conclude any military alliances with the bourgeois States? Here there is no difference in principle between a loan and a military alliance. And I maintain that we have already grown so big that we are in a position to conclude a military alliance with a bourgeois State for the purpose of destroying some other bourgeois State with the help of the bourgeois ally. What would happen later on, under a certain re-adjustment of forces, you can easily imagine for yourselves. This is a question of purely strategical and tactical expediency. In this manner it should be stated in our program.

Under this form of national defence, i.e., the military alliance with bourgeois States, it is the duty of the comrades in every country to aid this alliance to victory. If in its subsequent phase of development, the bourgeoisie of such a country should be overthrown, then other questions arise (Laughter) which it is not my duty to outline here, but which you will readily conceive.

Next we should make mention of a technical point, of the right of Red Intervention. This is to my mind the touchstone for all communist parties. There is a widespread outcry about Red Militarism. We should make it plain in our program that every proletarian State has the right of Red intervention. (Radek, interposes: You are the Honorary Chief of a regiment, and that is why you talk like this! Laughter). In the Communist Manifesto we were told that the proletariat should conquer the whole world. Now this could not be done with our bare hands (Laughter) this has to be done with bayonets and rifles. For this reason the spread of the system on which the Red Army is based is also the spread of socialism, of the Proletarian might, of the Revolution. This gives the basis to the right of Red intervention under special circumstances which make the technical realisation of it possible.

Now I have done with the various problems, and I will now pass to a general survey of our problem, particularly the construction of the problem, and here I can afford to be quite brief. I mean to say that the program of the national parties should consist at least of two parts:

  1. a general part which is suitable to all parties. The general part of the program should be printed in the membership book of every member in every country.
  2. A national part, setting out the specific demands of the labor movement of the respective countries. And possibly also.
  3. but this is really not a part of the program – a program of action which should deal with purely tactical questions, and which might be altered once every fortnight. (laughter)

Some comrades want us to define in our program also the tactical questions, such as the capital levy in Germany, the tactics of the United Front, or even the question of the workers’ government. Comrade Varga said it would be mental cowardice to protest against it (Radek interposes, Quite right!) Nevertheless I maintain that the desire to settle these questions is nothing but the outcome of the opportunist proclivities of the respective comrades. (Laughter) Such questions and slogans like the united front or the worker’s Government, for instance, or the capital levy, are slogans that are based on very shifting ground. This basis consists of a certain depression within the labour movement. These comrades want to make this defensive position of the proletariat a plank on the program, which would make it impossible to assume the offensive. Against such a proposition I will fight with all means at my disposal. We will never allow the adoption of such planks in our program (Radek, interposing: Who is the „we”?) We, that is all the best elements of the Communist International. (Laughter and cheers)

Comrades, I think that in the theoretical part we should include the following sub-sections. First a general analysis of capitalism, which would be of particular importance to the colonial countries. Then we should have an analysis of imperialism and the decay of capitalism, and, further on, the analysis of the epoch of the social revolution.

In the second part of the program, we ought to have a sketch of the future communist society. I take it that a picture of the communist society in the program would be necessary in order to show what Communism really means and the difference between communism and the various transitory stages.

The third should contain the overthrow of the bourgeoisie and the struggle of the proletariat for power.

The fourth part should be devoted to general strategic questions, not such questions as the workers’ government, but such basic questions as, for instance, the attitude towards social democracy and the trade unions.

Because these two questions are not of a fluctuating nature, the strategical and technical questions can be laid down in the program.

With regard to the national part of the program, it is not my task to touch upon these problems: for a special investigation will have to be made according to the country and the programme.

Comrades, at this juncture I would like to offer a few more critical remarks regarding the expressions of opinion – some of them were made in writing – and articles by various comrades.

From the discussion on these questions we have the following documents and statements:

  1. The Report of the first discussion of the Programme Commission, received by all the parties.
  2. The answer of the Italian Central Committee to this report.
  3. Some articles by comrade Varga.
  4. An article by comrade Rudas.
  5. An article by comrade Rappaport.
  6. A draft by the German Party.
  7. A draft by the Bulgarian Party, and
  8. My draft.

With regard to the first discussion by the programme commission, two standpoints were represented there. The differences were about the question whether we ought to include in our programme such tactical problems as the Workers’ Government etc. or not. One of the standpoints I am representing here.

The Italian Central Committee gave its answer to the discussion of the Programme Commission in a letter in which they agreed to my view but for rather peculiar reasons. They said that these things could not be laid down in the programme because one could not force the credo out of the national parties. Thus the reason for our not being able to put these things in our programme is not that they are opportunistic but because the International cannot force the national Parties into a confession of faith. If that is so, we shall have to alter our programme every fortnight.

I am very grateful to the Italian comrades for agreeing to my views, but I cannot tender them the slightest thanks for their peculiar reasons for supporting me.

Now as to the articles by comrade Varga. Comrade Varga is a very brave fellow, and he therefore says that all those who refuse to accept his standpoint on this question are cowards. I have already said that his bravery is of an opportunistic nature, and our cowardice consists of refusing to be opportunists. We were afraid of being turned into opportunists. Varga on his part is no coward and he therefore entertains no such fear. That is the real difference between him and ourselves.

Varga further wants us to include a description of the types of the various countries during the period of the collapse of capitalism. On the whole, he would have, instead of a programme, an encyclopaedia of all the social sciences with all the supplements. Besides, I would consider it dangerous to incorporate a description of the types of all the countries upon our programme. The events may change very rapidly within the various countries. For instance, in the event of victorious revolution in Germany we would nave immediately and completely to readjust our conception of the world situation as a whole. I therefore think it inexpedient to include a concrete description of the types of different countries. Besides the reason that it would be inexpedient on account of possible political changes, this would also make our programme far too long and cumbersome for any worker to read.

With regard to the article by comrade Smeral, I can distinguish two distinct lines of direction in which he expresses his wishes. On the one hand he wants us to make full use of the experiences of the Russian Revolution and he justly wants us to include the question of the relation between the different branches of industry and the different social strata. Yet on the other hand, together with Varga and Radek he wants us to fix on the programme such questions as the Workers’ Government, the open letter etc.

With the article of comrade Rudas I am, on the whole, in agreement.

With regard to the article by comrade. Rappaport, I have tried in vain to find any tangible idea in it.

With regard to the programme by the German Party, I would say that in my opinion it possesses the following defects.

  1. It is pedantic.
  2. It is drawn in too concrete detail.

    For instance, it contains a long passage about various concrete things like the Peace of Versailles etc., etc., which in my opinion do not at all belong to the programme. This descriptive and concrete historical side of the German draft accounts also for its great length. It is not a programme, but a very extensive universal manifesto. This is the impression I gained from the draft. Many passages are written in brilliant style and are quite good theoretically.
  3. The draft is altogether too European the German comrades admitted that themselves – and to my mind also somewhat too German i.e., based too much on the standpoint of Central Europe.
  4. The final defect of the German programme consists in that it summarises all the other programmes, which makes it unduly long. It does not contain a general analysis of capital, which is important; it does not contain a general description of communism, which is also necessary; and above all it is too long, far too long.

With regard to the Bulgarian programme, I have the following to say; it contains some passages which are likewise too concretely drawn, and far too long for the purposes of a programme: they could only serve as commentaries.

Then the construction of the programme is not quite a happy one, for it contains a certain mixture of Bulgarian and general questions. I have a material remark to make with regard to a certain passage, in which the Bulgarian comrades speak of the role of the Party. In the concluding words of that passage they speak even of armed insurrection. They speak of mass actions and strikes leading to armed revolt; this is very revolutionary. But in speaking of the role of the party generally, this programme, in my opinion, lays too much stress on parliamentary activity. The proportion between the activity out of parliament and within is not quite a happy one, even if you would only take into consideration the corresponding dimensions of the paper devoted to them. I think it will be much better if we correct somewhat this part of the programme.

One other remark in conclusion. If the demands of the Party as elaborately outlined in the Bulgarian programme, are intended for all parties affiliated with the International, then it is too much. If they are intended only for the Balkan countries, then they lack those demands which would be proper for the International. Also in this respect I think some correction would be necessary.

Of course I do not urge you to accept my offer. (Laughter and applause) Nevertheless I would ask the comrades to discuss these questions, and particularly, after the Congress, to elaborate theoretically and in larger scope the many component parts of the programme.

I conclude my lengthy report with the hope that we will emerge from the Fifth Congress with an effective, truly revolutionary orthodox Marxian programme.

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Last updated on 2 January 2021