Vladimir Ilyich Lenin

Draft and Explanation of a Programme for the Social-Democratic Party[2]

Written: Written in prison in 1895–96
Published: First published in 1924. The Draft Programme is published according to the manuscript written in invisible ink between the lines of Nauchnoye Obozreniye,[3] No. 5, 1900 and the Explanation of the Programme, according to a hectographed notebook.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers,1972, Moscow, Volume 2, pages 93-121.
Translated: Translated from the Russian & Edited by George Hanna
Transcription\Markup: D. Walters
Public Domain: Lenin Internet Archive (2001). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.


Draft Programme

A. 1. Big factories are developing in Russia with ever-growing rapidity, ruining the small handicraftsmen and peasants, turning them into propertyless workers, and driving ever-increasing numbers of the people to the cities, factory and industrial villages and townlets.

2. This growth of capitalism signifies an enormous growth of wealth and luxury among a handful of factory owners, merchants and landowners, and a still more rapid growth of the poverty and oppression of the workers. The improvements in production and the machinery introduced in the big factories, while facilitating a rise in the productivity of social labour, serve to strengthen the power of the capitalists over the workers, to increase unemployment and with it to accentuate the defenceless position of the workers.

3. But while carrying the oppression of labour by capital to the highest pitch, the big factories are creating a special class of workers which is enabled to wage a struggle against capital, because their very conditions of life are destroying all their ties with their own petty production, and, by uniting the workers through their common labour and transferring them from factory to factory, are welding masses of working folk together. The workers are beginning a struggle against the capitalists, and an intense urge for unity is appearing among them. Out of the isolated revolts of the workers is growing the struggle of the Russian working class.

4. This struggle of the working class against the capitalist class is a struggle against all classes who live by the labour of others, and against all exploitation. It can only end   in the passage of political power into the hands of the working class, the transfer of all the land, instruments, factories, machines, and mines to the whole of society for the organisation of socialist production, under which all that is produced by the workers and all improvements in production must benefit the working people themselves.

5. The movement of the Russian working class is, according to its character and aims, part of the international (Social-Democratic) movement of the working class of all countries.

6. The main obstacle in the struggle of the Russian working class for its emancipation is the absolutely autocratic government and its irresponsible officials. Basing itself on the privileges of the landowners and capitalists and on subservience to their interests, it denies the lower classes any rights whatever and thus fetters the workers’ movement and retards the development of the entire people. That is why the struggle of the Russian working class for its emancipation necessarily gives rise to the struggle against the absolute power of the autocratic government.

B. 1. The Russian Social-Democratic Party declares that its aim is to assist this struggle of the Russian working class by developing the class-consciousness of the workers, by promoting their organisation, and by indicating the aims and objects of the struggle.

2. The struggle of the Russian working class for its emancipation is a political struggle, and its first aim is to achieve political liberty.

3. That is why the Russian Social-Democratic Party will, without separating itself from the working-class movement, support every social movement against the absolute power of the autocratic government, against the class of privileged landed nobility and against all the vestiges of serfdom and the social-estate system which hinder free competition.

4. On the other hand, the Russian Social-Democratic workers’ party will wage war against all endeavours to patronise the labouring classes with the guardianship of the absolute government and its officials, all endeavours to retard the development of capitalism, and consequently the development of the working class!

5. The emancipation of the workers must be the act of the working class itself.

6. What the Russian people need is not the help of the absolute government and its officials, but emancipation from oppression by it.

C. Making these views its starting-point, the Russian Social-Democratic Party demands first and foremost:

1. The convening of a Zemsky Sobor made up of representatives of all citizens so as to draw up a constitution.

2. Universal and direct suffrage for all citizens of Russia who have reached 21 years of age, irrespective of religion or nationality.

3. Freedom of assembly and organisation, and the right to strike.

4. Freedom of the press.

5. Abolition of social estates, and complete equality of all citizens before the law.

6. Freedom of religion and equality of all nationalities. Transfer of the registration of births, marriages and deaths to independent civic officials, independent, that is, of the police.

7. Every citizen to have the right to prosecute any official, without having to complain to the latter’s superiors.

8. Abolition of passports, full freedom of movement and residence.

9. Freedom of trades and occupations and abolition of guilds .

D. For the workers, the Russian Social-Democratic Party demands:

1. Establishment of industrial courts in all industries, with elected judges from the capitalists and workers, in equal numbers.

2. Legislative limitation of the working day to 8 hours.

3. Legislative prohibition of night work and shifts. Prohibition of work by children under 15 years of age.

4. Legislative enactment of national holidays.

5. Application of factory laws and factory inspection to all industries throughout Russia, and to government factories, and also to handicraftsmen who work at home.

6. The Factory Inspectorate must be independent and not be under the Ministry of Finance. Members of industrial   courts must enjoy equal rights with the Factory Inspectorate in ensuring the observance of factory laws.

7. Absolute prohibition everywhere of the truck system.

8. Supervision, by workers’ elected representatives, of the proper fixing of rates, the rejection of goods, the expenditure of accumulated fines and the factory-owned workers’ quarters.

A law that all deductions from workers’ wages, whatever the reason for their imposition (fines, rejects, etc.), shall not exceed the sum of 10 kopeks per ruble all told.

9. A law making the employers responsible for injuries to workers, the employer being required to prove that the worker is to blame.

10. A law making the employers responsible for maintaining schools and providing medical aid to the workers.

E. For the peasants, the Russian Social-Democratic Party demands:

1. Abolition of land redemption payments[4] and compensation to the peasants for redemption payments made. Return to the peasants of excess payments made to the Treasury.

2. Return to the peasants of their lands cut off in 1861.

3. Complete equality of taxation of the peasants’ and landlords’ lands.

4. Abolition of collective responsibility[5] and of all laws that prevent the peasants from doing as they will with their lands.

Explanation of the Programme

The programme is divided into three main parts. Part one sets forth all the tenets from which the remaining parts of the programme follow. This part indicates the position occupied by the working class in contemporary society, the meaning and significance of their struggle against the employers and the political position of the working class in the Russian state.

Part two sets forth the Party’s aim, and indicates the Party’s relation to other political trends in Russia. It deals with what should be the activity of the Party and of all class-conscious workers, and what should be their   attitude to the interests and strivings of the other classes in Russian society.

Part three contains the Party’s practical demands. This part is divided into three sections. The first section contains demands for nation-wide reforms. The second section states the demands and programme of the working class. The third section contains demands in the interests of the peasants. Some preliminary explanations of the sections are given below, before proceeding to the practical part of the programme.

A 1. The programme deals first of all with the rapid growth of big factories, because this is the main thing in contemporary Russia that is completely changing all the old conditions of life, particularly the living conditions of the labouring class. Under the old conditions practically all the country’s wealth was produced by petty proprietors, who constituted the overwhelming majority of the population. The population lived an immobile life in the villages, the greater part of their produce being either for their own consumption, or for the small market of neighbouring villages which had little contact with other nearby markets. These very same petty proprietors worked for the landlords, who compelled them to produce mainly for their consumption. Domestic produce was handed over for processing to artisans, who also lived in the villages or travelled in the neighbouring areas to get work.

But after the peasants were emancipated, these living conditions of the mass of the people underwent a complete change: the small artisan establishments began to be replaced by big factories, which grew with extraordinary rapidity; they ousted the petty proprietors, turning them into wage-workers, and compelled hundreds and thousands of workers to work together, producing tremendous quantities of goods that are being sold all over Russia.

The emancipation of the peasants destroyed the immobility of the population and placed the peasants in conditions under which they could no longer get a livelihood from the patches of land that remained in their possession. Masses of people left home to seek a livelihood, making for the factories or for jobs on the construction of the railways which connect the different corners of Russia and carry the output   of the big factories everywhere. Masses of people went to jobs in the towns, took part in building factory and commercial premises, in delivering fuel to factories, and in preparing raw materials for them. Finally, many people were occupied at home, doing jobs for merchants and factory owners who could not expand their establishments fast enough. Similar changes took place in agriculture; the landlords began to produce grain for sale, big cultivators from among the peasants and merchants came on the scene, and grain in hundreds of millions of poods began to be sold abroad. Production required wage-workers, and hundreds of thousands and millions of peasants, giving up their tiny allotments, went to work as regular or day labourers for the new masters engaged in producing grain for sale. Now it is these changes in the old way of life that are described by the programme, which says that the big factories are ruining the small handicraftsmen and peasants, turning them into wage-workers. Small-scale production is being replaced everywhere by large-scale, and in this large-scale production the masses of the workers are just hirelings employed for wages by the capitalist, who possesses enormous capital, builds enormous workshops, buys up huge quantities of materials and fills his pockets with all the profit from this mass-scale production by the combined workers. Production has become capitalist, and it exerts merciless and ruthless pressure on all the petty proprietors, destroying their immobile life in the villages, compelling them to travel from one end of the country to the other as ordinary unskilled labourers, selling their labour-power to capital. An ever-increasing part of the population is being separated once and for all from the countryside and from agriculture, and is concentrating in the towns, factory and industrial villages and townlets, forming a special propertyless class of people, a class of hired proletarian workers, who live only by the sale of their labour-power.

These are what constitute the tremendous changes in the country’s life brought about by the big factories—small-scale production is being replaced by large-scale, the petty proprietors are turning into wage-workers. What, then, does this change mean for the whole of the working   population, and where is it leading? This is dealt with further in the programme.

A 2. Accompanying the replacement of small- by large-scale production is the replacement of small financial resources in the hands of the individual proprietor by enormous sums employed as capital, the replacement of small, insignificant profits by profits running into millions. That is why the growth of capitalism is leading everywhere to the growth of luxury and riches. A whole class of big financial magnates, factory owners, railway owners, merchants, and bankers has arisen in Russia, a whole class of people who live off income derived from money capital loaned on interest to industrialists has arisen; the big landowners have become enriched, drawing large sums from the peasants by way of land redemption payments, taking advantage of their need of land to raise the price of the land leased to them, and setting up large beet-sugar refineries and distilleries on their estates. The luxury and extravagance of all these wealthy classes have reached unparalleled dimensions, and the main streets of the big cities are lined with their princely mansions and luxurious palaces. But as capitalism grew, the workers’ conditions became steadily worse. If earnings increased in some places following the peasants’ emancipation, they did so very slightly and not for long, because the mass of hungry people swarming in from the villages forced rates down, while the cost of food stuffs and necessities continued to go up, so that even with their increased wages the workers got fewer means of subsistence; it became increasingly difficult to find jobs, and side by side with the luxurious mansions of the rich (or on city outskirts) there grew up the slums where the workers were forced to live in cellars, in overcrowded, damp and cold dwellings, and even in dug-outs near the new industrial establishments. As capital grew bigger it increased its pressure on the workers, turning them into paupers, compelling them to devote all their time to the factory, and forcing the workers’ wives and children to go to work. This, therefore, is the first change towards which the growth of capitalism is leading: tremendous wealth is accumulating in the coffers of a small handful of capitalists, while the masses of the people are being turned into paupers.

The second change consists in the fact that the replacement of small- by large-scale production has led to many improvements in production. First of all, work done singly, separately in each little workshop, in each isolated little household, has been replaced by the work of combined labourers working together at one factory, for one landowner, for one contractor. Joint labour is far more effective (productive) than individual, and renders it possible to produce goods with far greater ease and rapidity. But all these improvements are enjoyed by the capitalist alone, who pays the workers next to nothing and appropriates all the profit deriving from the workers’ combined labour. The capitalist gets still stronger and the worker gets still weaker because he becomes accustomed to doing some one kind of work and it is more difficult for him to transfer to another job, to change his occupation.

Another, far more important, improvement in production is the introduction of machines by the capitalist. The effectiveness of labour is increased manifold by the use of machines; but the capitalist turns all this benefit against the worker: taking advantage of the fact that machines require less physical labour, he assigns women and children to them, and pays them less. Taking advantage of the fact that where machines are used far fewer workers are wanted, he throws them out of the factory in masses and then takes advantage of this unemployment to enslave the worker still further, to increase the working day, to deprive the worker of his night’s rest and to turn him into a simple appendage to the machine. Unemployment, created by machinery and constantly on the increase, now makes the worker utterly defenceless. His skill loses its worth, he is easily replaced by a plain unskilled labourer, who quickly becomes accustomed to the machine and gladly undertakes the job for lower wages. Any attempt to resist increased oppression by the capitalist leads to dismissal. On his own the worker is quite helpless against capital, and the machine threatens to crush him.

A 3. In explaining the previous point, we showed that on his own the worker is helpless and defenceless against the capitalist who introduces machines. The worker has at all costs to seek means of resisting the capitalist, in order   to defend himself. And he finds such means in organisation. Helpless on his own, the worker becomes a force when organised with his comrades, and is enabled to fight the capitalist and resist his onslaught.

Organisation becomes a necessity for the worker, now faced by big capital. But is it possible to organise a motley mass of people who are strangers to one another, even if they work in one factory? The programme indicates the conditions that prepare the workers for unity and develop in them the capacity and ability to organise. These conditions are as follows: 1) the large factory, with machine production that requires regular work the whole year round, completely breaks the tie between the worker and the land and his own farm, turning him into an absolute proletarian. The fact of each farming for himself on a patch of land divided the workers and gave each one of them a certain specific interest, separate from that of his fellow worker, and was thus an obstacle to organisation. The worker’s break with the land destroys these obstacles. 2) Further, the joint work of hundreds and thousands of workers in itself accustoms the workers to discuss their needs jointly, to take joint action, and clearly shows them the identity of the position and interests of the entire mass of workers. 3) Finally, constant transfers of workers from factory to factory accustom them to compare the conditions and practices in the different factories and enable them to convince themselves of the identical nature of the exploitation in all factories, to acquire the experience of other workers in their clashes with the capitalist, and thus enhance the solidarity of the workers. Now it is because of these conditions, taken together, that the appearance of big factories has given rise to the organisation of the workers. Among the Russian workers unity is expressed mainly and most frequently in strikes (we shall deal further with the reason why organisation in the shape of unions or mutual benefit societies is beyond the reach of our workers). The more the big factories develop, the more frequent, powerful and stubborn become the workers’ strikes; the greater the oppression of capitalism and the greater the need for joint resistance by the workers. Strikes and isolated revolts of the workers, as the programme states, now constitute the   most widespread phenomenon in Russian factories. But, with the further growth of capitalism and the increasing frequency of strikes, they prove inadequate. The employers take joint action against them: they conclude agreements among themselves, bring in workers from other areas, and turn for assistance to those who run the machinery of state, who help them crush the workers’ resistance. Instead of being faced by the one individual owner of each separate factory, the workers are now faced by the entire capitalist class and the government that assists it. The entire capitalist class undertakes a struggle against the entire working class ; it devises common measures against the strikes, presses the government to adopt anti-working-class legislation, transfers factories to more out-of-the-way localities, and resorts to the distribution of jobs among people working at home and to a thousand and one other ruses and devices against the workers. The organisation of the workers of a separate factory, even of a separate industry, proves inadequate for resisting the entire capitalist class, and joint action by the entire working class becomes absolutely necessary. Thus, out of the isolated revolts of the workers grows the struggle of the entire working class. The struggle of the workers against the employers turns into a class struggle. All the employers are united by the one interest of keeping the workers in a state of subordination and of paying them the minimum wages possible. And the employers see that the only way they can safeguard their interests is by joint action on the part of the entire employing class, by acquiring influence over the machinery of state. The workers are likewise bound together by a common interest, that of preventing themselves being crushed by capital, of upholding their right to life and to a human existence. And the workers likewise become convinced that they, too, need unity, joint action by the entire class, the working class, and that to that end they must secure influence over the machinery of state.

A 4. We have explained how and why the struggle between the factory workers and the employers becomes a class struggle, a struggle of the working class—the proletarians—against the capitalist class—the bourgeoisie. The question arises, what significance has this struggle for the entire people and for all working people? Under the   contemporary conditions, of which we have already spoken in the explanation of point 1, production by wage-workers increasingly ousts petty economy. The number of people who live by wage-labour grows rapidly, and not only does the number of regular factory workers increase, but there is a still greater increase in the number of peasants who also have to search for work as wage-labourers, in order to live. At the present time, work for hire, work for the capitalist, has already become the most widespread form of labour. The domination of capital over labour embraces the bulk of the population not only in industry, but also in agriculture. Now it is this exploitation of wage-labour underlying contemporary society that the big factories develop to the utmost. All the methods of exploitation used by all capitalists in all industries, and which the entire mass of Russia’s working-class population suffers from, are concentrated, intensified, made the regular rule right in the factory and spread to all aspects of the worker’s labour and life, they create a whole routine, a whole system whereby the capitalist sweats the worker. Let us illustrate this with an example: at all times and places, anybody who undertakes work for hire, rests, leaves his work on a holiday if it is celebrated in the neighbourhood: It is quite different in the factory. Once the factory management has engaged a worker, it disposes of his services just as it likes, paying no attention to the worker’s habits, to his customary way of life, to his family position, to his intellectual requirements. The factory drives the employee to work when it needs his labour, compelling him to fit in his entire life with its requirements, to tear his rest hours to pieces, and, if he is on shifts, to work at night and on holidays. All the imaginable abuses relating to working time are set into motion by the factory and at the same time it introduces its “rules,” its “practices,” which are obligatory for every worker. The order of things in the factory is deliberately adapted to squeezing out of the hired worker all the labour he is capable of yielding, to squeezing it out at top speed and then to throwing him out! Another example. Everybody who takes a job, undertakes, of course, to submit to the employer, to do everything he is ordered. But when anybody hires himself out on a temporary job, he does not surrender his will at all; if he finds his employer’s   demands wrong or excessive, he leaves him. The factory, on the other hand, demands that the worker surrender his will altogether; it introduces discipline within its walls, compels the worker to start or to stop work when the bell rings, assumes the right itself to punish the worker, and subjects him to a fine or a deduction for every violation of rules which it has itself drawn up. The worker becomes part of a huge aggregate of machinery. He must be just as obedient, enslaved, and without a will of his own, as the machine itself.

Yet another example. Anybody who takes a job has frequent occasion to be dissatisfied with his employer, and complains about him to the court or a government official. Both the official and the court usually settle the dispute in the employer’s favour, support him, but this promotion of the employer’s interests is not based on a general regulation or a law, but on the subservience of individual officials, who at different times protect him to a greater or lesser degree, and who settle matters unjustly in the employer’s favour, either because they are acquaintances of his, or because they are uninformed about working conditions and cannot understand the worker. Each separate case of such injustice depends on each separate clash between the worker and the employer, on each separate official. The factory, on the other hand, gathers together such a mass of workers, carries oppression to such a pitch, that it becomes impossible to examine every separate case. General regulations are established, a law is drawn up on relations between the workers and the employers, a law that is obligatory for all. In this law the promotion of the employer’s interests is backed up by the authority of the state. The injustice of individual officials is replaced by the injustice of the law itself. Regulations appear, for example, of the following type: if the worker is absent from work, he not only loses wages, but has to pay a fine in addition, whereas the employer pays nothing if he sends the workers home for lack of work; the employer may dismiss the worker for using strong language, whereas the worker cannot leave the job if he is similarly treated; the employer is entitled on his own authority to impose fines, make deductions or demand that overtime be worked, etc.

All these examples show us how the factory intensifies the exploitation of the workers and makes this exploitation universal, makes a whole “system ” of it. The worker now has to deal, willy-nilly, not with an individual employer and his will and oppression, but with the arbitrary treatment and oppression he suffers from the entire employing class. The worker sees that his oppressors are not some one capitalist, but the entire capitalist class, because the system of exploitation is the same in all establishments. The individual capitalist cannot even depart from this system: if, for example, he were to take it into his head to reduce working hours, his goods would cost him more than those produced by his neighbour, another factory owner, who makes his employees work longer for the same wage. To secure an improvement in his conditions, the worker now has to deal with the entire social system aimed at the exploitation of labour by capital. The worker is now confronted not by the individual injustice of an individual official, but by the injustice of the state authority itself, which takes the entire capitalist class under its protection and issues laws, obligatory for all, that serve the interests of that class. Thus, the struggle of the factory workers against the employers inevitably turns into a struggle against the entire capitalist class, against the entire social order based on the exploitation of labour by capital. That is why the workers’ struggle acquires a social significance, becomes a struggle on behalf of all working people against all classes that live by the labour of others. That is why the workers’ struggle opens up a new era in Russian history and is the dawn of the workers’ emancipation.

What, however, is the domination of the capitalist class over the entire mass of working folk based on? It is based on the fact that all the factories, mills, mines, machines, and instruments of labour are in the hands of the capitalists, are their private property; on the fact that they possess enormous quantities of land (of all the land in European Russia, more than one-third belongs to landed proprietors, who do not number half a million). The workers possess no instruments of labour or materials, and so they have to sell their labour-power to the capitalists, who only pay the workers what is necessary for their keep, and place all the surplus   produced by labour in their pockets; thus they pay for only part of the working time they use, and appropriate the rest. The entire increase in wealth resulting from the combined labour of the masses of workers or from improvements in production goes to the capitalist class, while the workers, who toil from generation to generation, remain propertyless proletarians. That is why there is only one way of ending the exploitation of labour by capital, and that is to abolish the private ownership of the instruments of labour, to hand over all the factories, mills, mines, and also all the big estates, etc., to the whole of society and to conduct socialist production in common, directed by the workers themselves. The articles produced by labour in common will then go to benefit the working people themselves, while the surplus they produce over and above their keep will serve to satisfy the needs of the workers themselves, to secure the full development of all their capabilities and equal rights to enjoy all the achievements of science and art. That is why the programme states that the struggle between the working class and the capitalists can end only in this way. To achieve that, however, it is necessary that political power, i.e., the power to govern the state, should pass from the hands of a government which is under the influence of the capitalists and landowners, or from the hands of a government directly made up of elected representatives of the capitalists, into the hands of the working class.

Such is the ultimate aim of the struggle of the working class, such is the condition for its complete emancipation. This is the ultimate aim for which class-conscious, organised workers should strive; here in Russia, however, they still meet with tremendous obstacles, which hinder them in their struggle for emancipation.

A 5. The fight against the domination of the capitalist class is now being waged by the workers of all European countries and also by the workers of America and Australia. Working-class organisation and solidarity is not confined to one country or one nationality: the workers’ parties of different countries proclaim aloud the complete identity (solidarity) of interests and aims of the workers of the whole world. They come together at joint congresses, put forward common demands to the capitalist class of all countries, have   established an international holiday of the entire organised proletariat striving for emancipation (May Day), thus welding the working class of all nationalities and of all countries into one great workers’ army. The unity of the workers of all countries is a necessity arising out of the fact that the capitalist class, which rules over the workers, does not limit its rule to one country. Commercial ties between the different countries are becoming closer and more extensive; capital constantly passes from one country to another. The banks, those huge depositories that gather capital together and distribute it on loan to capitalists, begin as national institutions and then become international, gather capital from all countries, and distribute it among the capitalists of Europe and America. Enormous joint-stock companies are now being organised to set up capitalist enterprises not in one country, but in several at once; international associations of capitalists make their appearance. Capitalist domination is international. That is why the workers’ struggle in all countries for their emancipation is only successful if the workers fight jointly against international capital. That is why the Russian worker’s comrade in the fight against the capitalist class is the German worker, the Polish worker, and the French worker, just as his enemy is the Russian, the Polish, and the French capitalists. Thus, in the recent period foreign capitalists have been very eagerly transferring their capital to Russia, where they are building branch factories and founding companies for running new enterprises They are flinging themselves greedily on this young country in which the government is more favourable and obsequious to capital than anywhere else, in which they find workers who are less organised and less capable of fighting back than in the West, and in which the workers’ standard of living, and hence their wages, are much lower, so that the foreign capitalists are able to draw enormous profits, on a scale unparalleled in their own countries. International capital has already stretched out its hand to Russia. The Russian workers are stretching out their hands to the international labour movement.

A 6. We have already spoken of how the big factories carry capital’s oppression of labour to the highest pitch, how they establish a whole system of methods of   exploitation; how the workers, in their revolt against capital, inevitably arrive at the need to unite all workers, at the need for joint struggle by the entire working class. In this struggle against the capitalist class, the workers come up against the general laws of the state, which protect the capitalists and their interests.

But then, if the workers are strong enough to force concessions from the capitalists, to resist their attacks by joint action, they could also, by their unity, influence the laws of the state, and secure their alteration. That is what the workers of all other countries are doing. The Russian workers, however, cannot exert direct influence on the state. The conditions of the Russian workers are such that they are deprived of the most elementary civil rights. They must not dare to gather together, to discuss their affairs together, to organise unions, to publish statements; in other words, the laws of the state have not only been drawn up in the interests of the capitalist class, but they frankly deprive the workers of all possibility of influencing these laws and of securing their alteration. The reason this happens is that in Russia (and in Russia alone of all European countries) the absolute power of an autocratic government continues to this day, that is, a system of state exists under which laws that are obligatory for the entire people may be issued by the tsar alone, at his discretion, while only officials appointed by him may give effect to them. The citizens are not allowed to take any part in issuing laws, in discussing them, in proposing new or in demanding the repeal of old laws. They have no right to demand of officials an account of their activity, to check their activity, and to prosecute them. Citizens do not even possess the right to discuss affairs of state: they must not dare to organise meetings or unions without the permission of those same officials. The officials are thus irresponsible in the full sense of the term; they constitute a special caste, as it were, placed above the citizens. The irresponsibility and arbitrary conduct of the officials, and the fact that the population itself is inarticulate, give rise to such scandalous abuse of power by officials and such a violation of the rights of the common people as are hardly possible in any European country.

Thus, according to law, the Russian Government has absolute authority, and is considered to be quite independent, as it were, of the people, standing above all social estates and classes. If, however, that were really the case, why should the law and the government in all conflicts between the workers and the capitalists take the side of the capitalists? Why should the capitalists meet with ever-growing support as their numbers and their wealth grow, whereas the workers meet with ever-increasing resistance and restriction?

Actually the government does not stand above classes, it protects one class against the other, protects the propertied class against the propertyless, the capitalists against the workers. An absolute government could not rule such a huge country if it did not give all sorts of privileges and favours to the propertied classes.

Although the government, according to law, possesses absolute and independent power, actually the capitalists and landowners possess thousands of means of influencing the government and affairs of state. They have their own social-estate associations—noblemen’s and merchants’ societies, chambers of trade and manufactures, etc.—recognised by law. Their elected representatives either become officials outright, and take part in governing the state (for example, marshals of the nobility), or are given posts in government institutions of every kind: for example, the law provides for factory owners to participate in factory courts (the chief authority over the Factory Inspectorate), to which they elect their representatives. But they do not confine themselves to this direct participation in ruling the state. In their societies they discuss laws of state, draft bills, and the government usually consults them on each issue, submits draft bills to them with a request for their views.

The capitalists and landed proprietors organise all-Russian congresses, where they discuss their affairs and devise various measures of benefit to their class, and on behalf of all the landed nobility, or of the “merchants of all Russia,” petition for the adoption of new laws and for the amendment of old ones. They can discuss their affairs in the newspapers, for however much the government hampers the press with   its censorship, it would never dare think of depriving the propertied classes of the right to discuss their affairs. They have all sorts of ways and means of approaching the top representatives of the governmental authorities, they can more easily discuss the arbitrary conduct of lower officials, and can easily secure the repeal of particularly oppressive laws and regulations. And while there is no country in the world where there are so many laws and regulations, such unexampled police supervision by the government, a supervision that extends to all sorts of petty details and robs every undertaking of its individuality, there is no country in the world where these bourgeois regulations are so easily violated and where these police laws are circumvented so easily by just the gracious assent of the supreme authorities. And this gracious assent is never refused.[6]

B 1. This is the most important, the paramount, point of the programme, because it indicates what should constitute the activity of the Party in defending the interests of the working class, the activity of all class-conscious workers. It indicates how the striving for socialism, the striving for the abolition of the age-old exploitation of man by man, should be linked up with the popular movement engendered by the living conditions created by the large-scale factories.

The Party’s activity must consist in promoting the workers’ class struggle. The Party’s task is not to concoct some fashionable means of helping the workers, but to join up with the workers’ movement, to bring light into it, to assist the workers in the struggle they themselves have already begun to wage. The Party’s task is to uphold the interests of the workers and to represent those of the entire working class movement. Now, what must this assistance to the workers in their struggle consist of?

The programme says that this assistance must consist, firstly, in developing the workers’ class-consciousness. We have already spoken of how the workers’ struggle against the employers becomes the class struggle of the proletariat against the bourgeoisie.

What is meant by workers’ class-consciousness follows from what we have said on the subject. The workers’ class-consciousness means the workers’ understanding that   the only way to improve their conditions and to achieve their emancipation is to conduct a struggle against the capitalist and factory-owner class created by the big factories. Further, the workers’ class-consciousness means their understanding that the interests of all the workers of any particular country are identical, that they all constitute one class, separate from all the other classes in society. Finally, the class-consciousness of the workers means the workers’ understanding that to achieve their aims they have to work to influence affairs of state, just as the landlords and the capitalists did, and are continuing to do now.

By what means do the workers reach an understanding of all this? They do so by constantly gaining experience from the very struggle that they begin to wage against the employers and that increasingly develops, becomes sharper, and involves larger numbers of workers as big factories grow. There was a time when the workers’ enmity against capital only found expression in a hazy sense of hatred of their exploiters, in a hazy consciousness of their oppression and enslavement, and in the desire to wreak vengeance on the capitalists. The struggle at that time found expression in isolated revolts of the workers, who wrecked buildings, smashed machines, attacked members of the factory management, etc. That was the first , the initial, form of the working-class movement, and it was a necessary one, because hatred of the capitalist has always and everywhere been the first impulse towards arousing in the workers the desire to defend themselves. The Russian working-class movement has, however, already outgrown this original form. Instead of having a hazy hatred of the capitalist, the workers have already begun to understand the antagonism between the interests of the working class and of the capitalist class. Instead of having a confused sense of oppression, they have begun to distinguish the ways and means by which capital oppresses them, and are revolting against various forms of oppression, placing limits to capitalist oppression, and protecting themselves against the capitalist’s greed. Instead of wreaking vengeance on the capitalists they are now turning to the fight for concessions, they are beginning to face the capitalist class with one demand after another, and are   demanding improved working conditions, increased wages, and shorter working hours. Every strike concentrates all the attention and all the efforts of the workers on some particular aspect of the conditions under which the working class lives. Every strike gives rise to discussions about these conditions, helps the workers to appraise them, to understand what capitalist oppression consists in in the particular case, and what means can be employed to combat this oppression. Every strike enriches the experience of the entire working class. If the strike is successful it shows them what a strong force working-class unity is, and impels others to make use of their comrades’ success. Ii it is not successful, it gives rise to discussions about the causes of the failure and to the search for better methods of struggle. This transition of the workers to the steadfast struggle for their vital needs, the fight for concessions, for improved living conditions, wages and working hours, now begun all over Russia, means that the Russian workers are making tremendous progress, and that is why the attention of the Social-Democratic Party and all class-conscious workers should be concentrated mainly on this struggle, on its promotion. Assistance to the workers should consist in showing them those most vital needs for the satisfaction of which they should fight, should consist in analysing the factors particularly responsible for worsening the conditions of different categories of workers, in explaining factory laws and regulations the violation of which (added to the deceptive tricks of the capitalists) so often subject the workers to double robbery. Assistance should consist in giving more precise and definite expression to the workers’ demands, and in making them public, in choosing the best time for resistance, in choosing the method of struggle, in discussing the position and the strength of the two opposing sides, in discussing whether a still better choice can be made of the method of fighting (a method, perhaps, like addressing a letter to the factory owner, or approaching the inspector, or the doctor, according to circumstances, where direct strike action is not advisable, etc.).

We have said that the Russian workers’ transition to such struggle is indicative of the tremendous progress they have made. This struggle places (leads) the working-class movement on to the high road, and is the certain guarantee of its further success. The mass of working folk learn from this struggle, firstly, how to recognise and to examine one by one the methods of capitalist exploitation, to compare them with the law, with their living conditions, and with the interests of the capitalist class. By examining the different forms and cases of exploitation, the workers learn to understand the significance and the essence of exploitation as a whole, learn to understand the social system based on the exploitation of labour by capital. Secondly, in the process of this struggle the workers test their strength, learn to organise, learn to understand the need for and the significance of organisation. The extension of this struggle and the increasing frequency of clashes inevitably lead to a further extension of the struggle, to the development of a sense of unity, a sense of solidarity—at first among the workers of a particular locality, and then among the workers of the entire country, among the entire working class. Thirdly, this struggle develops the workers’ political consciousness. The living condition of the mass of working folk places them in such a position that they do not (cannot) possess either the leisure or the opportunity to ponder over problems of state. On the other hand, the workers’ struggle against the factory owners for their daily needs automatically and inevitably spurs the workers on to think of state, political questions, questions of how the Russian state is governed, how laws and regulations are issued, and whose interests they serve. Each clash in the factory necessarily brings the workers into conflict with the laws and representatives of state authority. In this connection the workers hear “political speeches” for the first time. At first from, say, the factory inspectors, who explain to them that the trick employed by the factory owner to defraud them is based on the exact meaning of the regulations, which have been endorsed by the appropriate authority and give the employer a free hand to defraud the workers, or that the factory owner’s oppressive measures are quite lawful, since he is merely availing himself of his rights, giving effect to such and such a law, that has been endorsed by the state authority that sees to its implementation. The political explanations of Messrs, the Inspectors are occasionally   supplemented by the still more beneficial “political explanations” of the minister,[7] who reminds the workers of the feelings of “Christian love” that they owe to the factory owners for their making millions out of the workers’ labour. Later, these explanations of the representatives of the state authority, and the workers’ direct acquaintance with the facts showing for whose benefit this authority operates, are still further supplemented by leaflets or other explanations given by socialists, so that the workers get their political education in full from such a strike. They learn to understand not only the specific interests of the working class, but also the specific place occupied by the working class in the state. And so the assistance which the Social-Democratic Party can render to the class struggle of the workers should be: to develop the workers’ class-consciousness by assisting them in the fight for their most vital needs.

The second type of assistance should consist, as the programme states, in promoting the organisation of the workers. The struggle we have just described necessarily requires that the workers be organised. Organisation becomes necessary for strikes, to ensure that they are conducted with great success, for collections in support of strikers, for setting up workers’ mutual benefit societies, and for propaganda among the workers, the distribution among them of leaflets, announcements, manifestoes, etc. Organisation is still more necessary to enable the workers to defend themselves against persecution by the police and the gendarmerie, to conceal from them all the workers’ contacts and associations and to arrange the delivery of books, pamphlets, newspapers, etc. To assist in all this—such is the Party’s second task.

The third consists in indicating the real aims of the struggle, i.e., in explaining to the workers what the exploitation of labour by capital consists in, what it is based on, how the private ownership of the land and the instruments of labour leads to the poverty of the working masses, compels them to sell their labour to the capitalists and to yield up gratis the entire surplus produced by the worker’s labour over and above his keep, in explaining, furthermore, how this exploitation inevitably leads to the class struggle between   the workers and the capitalists, what the conditions of this struggle and its ultimate aims are—in a word, in explaining what is briefly stated in the programme.

B 2. What is meant by these words: the struggle of the working class is a political struggle? They mean that the working class cannot fight for its emancipation without securing influence over affairs of state, over the administration of the state, over the issue of laws. The need for such influence has long been understood by the Russian capitalists, and we have shown how they have been able, despite all sorts of prohibitions contained in the police laws, to find thousands of ways of influencing the state authority, and how this authority serves the interests of the capitalist class. Hence it naturally follows that the working class, too, cannot wage its struggle, cannot even secure a lasting improvement of its lot unless it influences state authority.

We have already said that the workers’ struggle against the capitalists will inevitably lead to a clash with the government, and the government itself is exerting every effort to prove to the workers that only by struggle and by joint resistance can they influence state authority. This was shown with particular clarity by the big strikes that took place in Russia in 1885-86. The government immediately set about drawing up regulations concerning workers, at once issued new laws about factory practices, yielded to the workers’ insistent demands (for example, regulations were introduced limiting fines and ensuring proper wage payment); in the same way the present strikes (in 1896) have again caused the government’s immediate intervention, and the government has already understood that it cannot confine itself to arrests and deportations, that it is ridiculous to regale the workers with stupid sermons about the noble conduct of the factory owners (see the circular issued by Finance Minister Witte to factory inspectors. Spring 1896). The government has realised that “organised workers constitute a force to be reckoned with” and so it already has the factory legislation under review and is convening in St. Petersburg a Congress of Senior Factory Inspectors to discuss the question of reducing working hours and other inevitable concessions to the workers.

Thus we see that the struggle of the working class against the capitalist class must necessarily be a political struggle. Indeed, this struggle is already exerting influence on the state authority, is acquiring political significance. But the workers’ utter lack of political rights, about which we have already spoken, and the absolute impossibility of the workers openly and directly influencing state authority become more clearly and sharply exposed and felt as the working-class movement develops. That is why the most urgent demand of the workers, the primary objective of the working-class influence on affairs of state must be the achievement of political freedom , i.e., the direct participation, guaranteed by law (by a constitution), of all citizens in the government of the state, the guaranteed right of all citizens freely to assemble, discuss their affairs, influence affairs of state through their associations and the press. The achievement of political freedom becomes the “vital task of the workers ” because without it the workers do not and cannot have any influence over affairs of state, and thus inevitably remain a rightless, humiliated and inarticulate class. And if even now, when the workers are only just be ginning to fight and to close their ranks, the government is already hastening to make concessions to the workers, in order to check the further growth of the movement, there can be no doubt that when the workers fully close their ranks and unite under the leadership of one political party, they will be able to compel the government to surrender, they will be able to win political freedom for themselves and the entire Russian people!

The preceding parts of the programme indicated the place occupied by the working class in contemporary society and the contemporary state, what is the aim of the struggle of the working class, and what constitutes the task of the Party that represents the workers’ interests. Under the absolute rule of the government there are not, nor can there be openly functioning political parties in Russia, but there are political trends which express the interests of other classes and which exert influence over public opinion and the government. Hence, in order to make clear the position of the Social-Democratic Party, it is necessary now to indicate its attitude towards the remaining political trends   in Russian society, so as to enable the workers to determine who may be their ally and to what extent, and who their enemy. That is indicated in the two following points of the programme.

B 3. The programme declares that the workers’ allies are, firstly, all those social strata which oppose the absolute power of the autocratic government. Since this absolute rule is the main obstacle to the workers’ fight for their emancipation, it naturally follows that it is in the direct interest of the workers to support every social movement against absolutism (absolute means unlimited; absolutism is the unlimited rule of the government). The stronger the development of capitalism, the deeper become the contradictions between this bureaucratic administration and the interests of the propertied classes themselves, the interests of the bourgeoisie. And the Social-Democratic Party proclaims that it will support all strata and grades of the bourgeoisie who oppose the absolute government.

It is infinitely more to the workers’ advantage for the bourgeoisie to influence affairs of state directly , than for their influence to be exerted, as is the case now, through a crowd of venal and despotic officials. It is far more advantageous to the workers for the bourgeoisie to openly influence policy than, as is the case now, to exert a concealed influence, concealed by the supposedly all-powerful “independent” government, which is called a government “by the grace of God,” and hands out “its graces” to the suffering and industrious landlords and the poverty-stricken and oppressed factory owners. The workers need open struggle against the capitalist class, in order that the entire Russian proletariat may see for whose interests the workers are waging the struggle, and may learn how to wage the struggle properly; in order that the intrigues and aspirations of the bourgeoisie may not be hidden in the ante-rooms of grand dukes, in the saloons of senators and ministers, and in departmental offices barred to the public, and in order that they may come to the surface and open the eyes of all and sundry as to who really inspires government policy and what the capitalists and landlords are striving for. And so, down with everything that hides the present influence of the capitalist class, and our support for any representative of the bourgeoisie   who comes out against the bureaucracy, the bureaucratic administration, against the absolute government! But, while proclaiming its support for every social movement against absolutism, the Social-Democratic Party recognises that it does not separate itself from the working-class movement, because the working class has its specific interests, which are opposed to the interests of all other classes. While rendering support to all representatives of the bourgeoisie in the fight for political freedom, the workers should remember that the propertied classes can only be their allies for a time, that the interests of the workers and the capitalists cannot be reconciled, that the workers need the abolition of the government’s absolute rule only in order to wage an open and extensive struggle against the capitalist class.

Further the Social-Democratic Party proclaims that it will render support to all who rise up against the class of the privileged landed nobility. The landed nobility in Russia are considered to be the first estate in the land. The remnants of their feudal power over the peasants weigh down the masses of the people to this day. The peasants continue to make land redemption payments for emancipation from the power of the landlords. The peasants are still tied to the land, in order that the landed gentry may not suffer any shortage of cheap and submissive farm labourers. Rightless and treated as juveniles, the peasants to this day are at the mercy of officials who look after their own pockets and interfere in peasant life so as to ensure that the peasants make their redemption payments or pay quit-rent to the feudal landlords “punctually,” that they do not dare to “shirk” working for the landlords, do not dare, for example, to leave the district and so perhaps compel the landlords to hire outside workers, who are not so cheap or so oppressed by want. The landlords keep millions, tens of millions of peasants in their service, enslaving them and keeping them without rights, and in return for their display of prowess in this sphere enjoy the highest privileges of state.The landed nobility are the principal holders of the highest posts in the state (what is more, by law the nobility, as a social estate, enjoy priority in the civil service); the aristocratic landlords are closest to the Court and more directly and easily than anybody else influence government policy in their own direction. They   utilise their close connections with the government to plunder the state coffers and to secure out of public funds gifts and grants that run into millions of rubles, sometimes in the shape of huge estates distributed for services, at other times in the shape of “concessions.”[1]


[1] The hectographed text in the notebook in the possession of the Institute of Marxism-Leninism, Central Committee of the C.P.S.U breaks off here.—Ed.

[2] The “Draft and Explanation of a Programme for the Social-Democratic Party” were written by Lenin while in prison in St. Petersburg. The “Draft Programme” was written in December 1895, some time after the 9th (21st) of that month. The “Explanation of the Programme” was written in June-July 1896. The reminiscences of N. K. Krupskaya and A. I. Ulyanova-Yelizarova show that the text was written in milk between the lines of some book. Lenin’s original text was evidently first developed and then copied.

In the Archives of the Institute of Marxism-Leninism of the C.C. of the C.P.S.U. there are three copies of the “Draft Programme.” The first one, found among Lenin’s personal papers for the period of 1900-04, was written by an unknown hand in invisible ink between the lines of S. Chugunov’s article “The Human Cervical Vertebra from the Viewpoint of the Theory of Evolution” in issue No. 5, 1900, of the magazine Nauchnoye Obozreniye. There is no heading to this copy. The pages are numbered in pencil in Lenin’s handwriting and were placed in an envelope with the inscription, also in Lenin’s handwriting: “Old (1895) Draft Programme.”

The second copy was also found among Lenin’s personal papers for the period 1900-04, it was typed on tissue paper and headed: “Old (1895) Draft Programme for the Social-Democratic Party.”

The third copy, found in the Geneva archives of the R.S.D.L.P., consists of 39 sheets of hectographed text. As distinct from the other two copies, this one contains not only the “Draft Programme,” but also an “Explanation of the Programme,” which together constitute one integral whole.

[3] Nauchnoye Obozreniye ( Science Review ) a journal that appeared in St. Petersburg from 1894 to 1903, at first weekly, then monthly. It had no definite line, but “to be in the fashion” (Lenin’s expression) allowed Marxists to use its columns. It published several letters and articles by Marx and Engels, and also three articles by V. I. Lenin: “A Note on the Question of the Market Theory,” “ Once More on the Theory of Realisation,” “ Uncritical Criticism.”

[4] Land redemption payments were established by the Regulation Governing Redemption by Peasants Who Have Emerged from Serf Dependence. . . , adopted on February 19, 1861. The tsarist government compelled the peasants, in return for the allotments assigned to them, to pay redemption to the landlords amounting to several times the real price of the land. When the purchase deal was concluded, the government paid the landlords the purchase price, which was considered a debt owed by the peasants, to be repaid over a period of 49 years. The instalments to be paid annually by the peasants were called land redemption payments. These were an intolerable burden on the peasants and caused their ruin and impoverishment en masse. The peasants formerly belonging to landlords alone paid nearly 2,000 million rubles to the tsarist government whereas the market price of the land that the peasants received did not exceed 544 million rubles. In view of the fact that the adoption of the redemption scheme by the peasants did not take place at once, but dragged on until 1883, the redemption payments were only to have ended by 1932. However the peasant movement during the first Russian revolution, in 1905-07, compelled the tsarist government to abolish the redemption payments as from January 1907.

[5] Collective responsibility was a compulsory measure making the peasants of each village community collectively responsible for timely and full payments and for the fulfilment of all sorts of services to the state and the landlords (payment of taxes and of land redemption instalments, provision of recruits for the army, etc.). This form of bondage, which was retained even after serfdom had been abolished, remained in force until 1906.

[6] The copyist apparently could not decipher several words following the word “refused.” The hectographed notebook continues as follows: “[blank]* . . . the rule of irresponsible officials than any interference by society in government affairs, the more readily does it present the opportunity . . . [blank II].”

[7] Lenin refers to the circular to factory inspectors issued by Minister of Finance S. Y. Witte following the strikes in the summer and autumn of 1895. Comments on the circular are given on pp. 123-4 of this volume.

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