Imperialism and the Accumulation of Capital, Bukharin 1925



We have come to the end of our observations, and we shall briefly mention the connexion between Rosa Luxemburg's theoretical mistakes and a number of her practical-political ones. The relation of correct and incorrect is identical in both sectors. In theory, the basic thesis of the ‘necessity' of imperialism and of the collapse of capitalism proved to be correct. In practice the same applies to the basic thesis: to overthrow imperialism, one has to overthrow the capitalist system. But, as with the theoretical conclusions, so with the chain of arguments that were to justify the thesis of the necessity of imperialism, which showed itself to have many false links; thus a number of tactical opinions, which ought to have delivered the practical proof of the theory and changed the weapon of criticisms into the criticism of weapons, proved to be incorrect.

Capitalism will inevitably decay because of a lack of ‘third persons'. In this lies its objective limit, which cannot be surpassed. Even if it decays ‘long before' the 'third persons' have disappeared, then nevertheless in that lies the final cause of the decay of capitalism and its collapse. That is one of Rosa Luxemburg's basic logical postulates.

If that is so, it is obvious that the picture of capitalist collapse bears a much duller, more colourless, hypertrophically exaggerated ‘industrial' character.

If that is so, then it is understandable that the problem of the ‘third persons' as potential allies of the proletariat in the class struggle against the bourgeoisie is of no overwhelming importance. The dullness of the picture of the collapse corresponds to the seclusion of the forces which fight and overthrow imperialism.

From this follows consequently another reading of the postulates, as follows:

1. Incorrect position on the national question.

2. Underestimation and incorrect position on the colonial question.

3. Underestimation and incorrect position on the peasant question.

We arrive at quite different results from our theoretical conceptions. Capitalism develops its internal contradictions; they, not the lack of ‘third persons', finally cause its collapse, however many 'third persons' there may be, even three quarters of the world's population. If capitalism reproduces its contradictions to such an extent that a decline of the productive forces begins, which makes impossible the existence of the labour force and drives the working class to rebellion, undermining the power of the metropolitan countries, unchaining the forces of the colonial slaves and sharpening national antagonisms, then the contradictions of capitalism will split the bloc of the ruling classes with the peasantry, and allow the important section of the peasantry to turn against capitalist domination – obviously, in this situation, tactics, the slogans of the struggle and the attitude towards the problem of the ‘allies' will turn out to be different. Then, the necessity of ‘connecting proletarian revolutions with peasant wars', colonial revolts and national liberation movements comes to the forefront.

Leninism dealt with precisely this question with unusual consistency and theoretical rigour. Thus, in overcoming Rosa Luxemburg's mistakes, we are inevitably led back time and time again to the theoretical postulates and practical conclusions of our departed teacher.