V. I.   Lenin

Material for the Preparation of the Programme of the R.S.D.L.P.


Notes On Plekhanov’s Second Draft Programme

The entire character of the programme is, in my opinion, the most general and basic defect of this draft, one that makes it unacceptable. Specifically, it is not the programme of a party engaged in a practical struggle, but a Prinzipienerklärung [A declaration of principles.—Ed.]; it is rather a programme for students (especially its most important section, which is devoted to a definition of capitalism), moreover for first-year students, who are acquainted with capitalism in general, but not yet with Russian capitalism. This basic defect leads also to a great deal of repetition, and the programme tends to become a commentary. I shall endeavour to prove this by analysing the draft point by point, and shall then draw the general conclusions.

“The development of international exchange,” etc., to the words “has long become an international movement” (§ I—for convenience in quoting I shall number each paragraph in consecutive order).

In essence there is nothing to which objection can be taken here. Only the words: “the great emancipation movement of our times” are superfluous, for the emancipatory nature of the working-class movement is dealt with below at length and concretely.

Further, in my opinion, this paragraph is not in its proper place. The programme of the Russian Social-Democratic Party should begin with a definition (and indictment) of Russian capitalism—and only then stress the international character of the movement, which in form—to use the words of the Communist Manifesto—is of necessity at first a national struggle.[9]

  § II. “Like the Social-Democrats of all other countries, the Russian Social-Democrats take an international stand. They regard their Party as one of the detachments of the world army of the proletariat, as part of international Social-Democracy.”

The words I have underlined are superfluous, since they add absolutely nothing to what has been said prior to and after this. These superfluous words merely weaken the wholly adequate and graphic expression of thought contained in the words “detachment” and “part.”

§ III. “They pursue the same ultimate aim as the Social-Democrats of all other countries.”

These too are superfluous words, repeated t w i c e below in §§ XIII (“the ultimate aim of all the efforts of international Social-Democracy,” etc.) and XVII (“the identity of the common ultimate aim”). A “detachment” of an army is a detachment for the very reason that it pursues the same aim.

§ IV. “This ultimate aim, which is common to the Social-Democrats of all countries” (again superfluous repetition), “is determined by bourgeois society’s nature and course of development.”

Also superfluous words, precisely because it ’is shown further how bourgeois society’s nature and course of development “determine” this ultimate aim. This paragraph is some thing in the nature of a heading or section title. But headings, which are necessary in textbooks or articles, are quite unnecessary in a programme. Alles, was im Programm überfiuissig, schwächt es [All that is superfluous in a programme weakens it.—Ed.] (Engels in his notes on the draft of the Erfurt Programme).[10]

§§ V and VI (as well as the beginning of VII) evoke, in addition to formal, remarks, one general and fundamental objection to the whole character of the programme as out lined in the draft.

I shall first state this general objection (for which purpose it will be necessary in part to defend the counterdraft), and then I shall proceed to the formal remarks.

§ V gives an academic definition of “developed” capitalism in general; § VI speaks of the “expansion” of capitalist production relations together with technical progress and the   growth of big enterprises to the detriment of small enterprises (or at the expense of the latter), i.e.., as small-scale production is being ousted by large-scale production.

This method of exposition is illogical and incorrect.

It is incorrect because the fighting proletariat learns what capitalism is, not from academic definitions (as one learns from textbooks), but from practical acquaintance with the contradictions of capitalism, with the development of society and its consequences. And in our programme we must define this development, and state—as briefly and graphically as possible—that matters are proceeding in a certain way. We should leave to commentaries all explanations of why things are proceeding in just this way and no other, and all details of the forms in which the basic tendencies find expression. As to what capitalism is—that will of itself follow from our definition of exactly how matters stand (resp. [Respective (Lat.).—Ed.] are proceeding).

It is illogical because the process of the ousting of small-scale production by large-scale production (§ VI) and that of the division of society into property-owners and proletarians (§ V) are one and the same process. And this is not expressed by the formulation given in the draft. According to the draft we have the following: First proposition. Developed capitalism consists in a considerable section of independent small- scale production having been ousted by large-scale production employing wage-workers. Second proposition. The domination of capitalism spreads in the degree that large-scale production ousts small-scale production....

In my opinion, these two paragraphs should be combined in one, for the reason indicated, and the process should be expressed as follows: technical progress—the ousting of small-scale production by large-scale production —the concentration of the means of production in the hands of the capitalists and the landowners—the ruin of the independent small producers: their conversion into proletarians or into dependents of capital.

The following objections are raised to this formulation (which the counterdraft has attempted to give):

  (1) It alleges that the ruin of the Russian peasantry (resp. the formation of large-scale landownership in Russia, etc.) depends solely on the growth of capitalism.

This objection is, I believe, groundless. It is stated quite clearly in the appropriate place (viz., at the end of the programme) that there exists in our country a host of remnants of the serf-owning system, and that these remnants “barbarise” the process of development. But once we consider the process of the development of capitalism the basic process in Russia’s social and economic evolution, we must begin precisely by describing this process, as well as its contradictions and consequences. Only in this way can we give graphic expression to our thought that the process of the development of capitalism, the ousting of small-scale production, the concentration of property, etc., is proceeding and will continue, despite all the remnants of the serf-owning system, and through all these remnants.

(2) It is said that the proposition “small-scale production is being ousted to an ever greater degree by large-scale production” is “too categorical,” “stereotyped,” etc.

I must, therefore, explain the reasons which lead me to consider this formulation no less correct and far more apt than the formulation given in the draft under discussion: “an increase in the economic importance of the big enterprises, a decrease in the relative number of the small enterprises, reduction of their role in the social and economic life of the country.”

From the purely theoretical aspect, both these formulations are absolutely identical in meaning, and all attempts to establish a difference in substance between them are wholly arbitrary.[1] “An increase in the importance of the big and the reduction of the role of the small”—is equivalent to ousting. Ousting can consist in nothing else. The complexity and confusion in the question of small-scale production being ousted by large-scale production do not at all depend on anyone being unable (in good faith) to understand that   ousting means “an increase in the importance of the big and reduction of the role of the small”—but ·depend wholly and exclusively on the difficulty of agreement on a choice of the indices and symptoms of the ousting, resp. of the increase in the importance of the one, resp. the reduction of the role of the other.

In its most general form, the process of the development of capitalism in this respect may be expressed as follows:

Initial period:
Total production=100.
Large-scale=a. Small-scale=100—a.

Subsequent period.
Total production=200.
Large-scale 2a+b. Small-scale=200—2ab.

It can be said with confidence that all and every kind of data on the proportional relation between large-scale and small-scale production will fit into this formula. Nobody out to understand the process can doubt that this is indeed ousting. Whether 200—2a—b will be greater in size than 100—a (relative ousting) or smaller (absolute ousting)— this is ousting in any case. Only a “critic” who does not wish to understand this will be “unable to understand”— and such people are very hard to please. Moreover, the commentary will give the proper rebuff to such people.

The difficulty of the question does not at all lie in under standing that the indicated modification is equivalent to “ousting,” but in the exact definition of the magnitudes 100, a, etc. This is a concrete question, a question of fact, and the formulation: “an increase in the importance and the reduction of the role” does not bring us a hair’s breadth closer to its solution.

For example, in the overwhelming majority of cases, all European industrial statistics determine this “importance” and this “role” by the number of workers (and agrarian statistics do so by the amount of land). And no one has yet ventured to doubt that a decrease in the proportionate number of workers (resp. the amount of land) means precisely ousting. The trouble, however, is that very often such indices as the number of workers (resp. the amount of land) are insufficient. Small enterprises may be ousted, while the number of workers there (the amount of land) increases—if, for instance,   these workers are handling outside materials, or if this land is cultivated by inferior draught animals, or by workers in inferior conditions, or is cultivated and fertilised in a worse way, and so on, and so forth. It is common knowledge that the “critical” arguments against “Marxist dogma” teem with just such “misunderstandings,” and these “misunderstandings” are not eliminated one iota by saying “an increase in the importance and the reduction of the role” instead of “ousting,” since it is “generally accepted” that the “importance” and “role” are expressed quite simply by the number of workers and the amount of land.

No one will doubt that such processes as the differentiation of the peasantry, increasing use of machinery especially by big proprietors, improvements in the stock of draught animals used by the big proprietors and deterioration of that used by smallholders (the substitution of cows for horses, etc.), growing “importunities” of the hired worker at the big enterprises and the longer working hours there, resp. the small peasant’s diminishing consumption, improved cultivation and fertilisation of the big proprietor’s land, and poorer cultivation and fertilisation of the smallholder’s land, the big proprietor’s advantage over the latter in the field of credits and association, and so on and so forth—all these are precisely an ousting of small-scale production by large-scale production (in agriculture). It is not at all difficult (or even necessary) to prove that all these processes amount to “ousting”—it is difficult to prove that it is precisely to these processes that attention should be paid, that these processes are actually taking place. This difficulty is not made easier in the least by the words: “an increase in the importance and the reduction of the role”; it can be made easier only by a commentary, only by examples of how people are unable to define (do not want to define) the true expression of the process of ousting (z=an increase in the importance and the reduction of the role).

It is a sheer illusion to imagine that the words “an increase in the importance and the reduction of the role” are deeper, more meaningful, and broader than the “narrow” and “stereotyped” word “ousting.” These words do not contribute in the least towards a more profound understanding of the process–they merely express this process more hazily and more vaguely. And the reason I am contesting these words so   vigorously is not because they are theoretically incorrect, but just because they lend an appearance of profundity to sheer haziness.

A person who has “attended a seminary” and nothing more and is aware that a proportionate decrease (and not necessarily an absolute decrease) is tantamount to ousting will see in this haziness a desire to cover up the nakedness of the “Marxist dogma,” which has been compromised by the critics.[2] A person who has not attended a seminary will only sigh over such masterly and “fathomless wisdom”—whereas the word “ousting” will remind every worker and every peas ant of scores and hundreds of familiar instances, It is no harm if he does not immediately grasp the full import of this expression: selbst wenn einmal ein Fremdwort oder ein nicht auf den ersten Blick in seiner ganzen Tragweite zu erfassender Satz vorkommt, schadet das nichts. Der münd liche Vortrag in den Versammlungen, die schriftliche Erklärung in der Presse tut da alles Nötige, und der kurze, prägnante Satz befestigt sich dann, einmal verstanden, im Gedächtniss, wird Schlagwort, und das passiert der breiteren Auseinandersetzung nie.[3] (Engels in his criticism of the Erfurt Draft.)

From the standpoint of style, too, the words “an increase in the importance and the reduction of the role” instead of “ousting” are undesirable. This is not the language of a revolutionary party, but the language of Russkiye Vedomosti.[11] This is the terminology not of socialist propaganda, but of a statistical abstract. These words seem, as it were, deliberately chosen with a view to giving the reader the impression that the process described is a mild one, culminating   in nothing definite, a painless process. Since in reality the reverse is true, these words are to that extent quite wrong. We cannot and should not choose the most abstract formulations, for what we are writing is not an article direct ed against the critics, but the programme of a militant party, which makes its appeal to the masses of handicraftsmen and peasants. In this appeal, we must say klipp und klar[Clearly and distinctly.—Ed.] that capital “makes servants and tributaries of them,” “ruins” them and “ousts” them, driving them into the ranks of the proletariat. This is the only formulation that would be a true expression of what every handicrafts man and every peasant knows from thousands of instances. And only this formulation will inevitably suggest the conclusion: your only salvation lies in joining the party of the proletariat.

In passing to the formal remarks against § V and § VI, I shall note the following.

§ V speaks of bourgeois society “in developed form,” and at the same time states that both a “section of the artisans” and “the small peasantry” have survived in this society. What follows is an inaccuracy. If one is to understand the words “developed form” in a strictly theoretical sense, then there will be neither artisans nor small peasants in such a society. And even if these words are taken in their usual sense to mean the most developed countries—even then we will find that in Britain, for example, “the small peasantry” as a separate section of society has in essence practically ceased to exist.

“The domination of commodity production on the basis of capitalist production relations.” That is rather incongruous. Of course, fully developed commodity production is possible only in capitalist society, but “commodity production” in general is both logically and historically prius to capitalism.

The term “capitalist production relations” is not used consistently in the draft. It is occasionally replaced by the term “the capitalist mode of production” (§ XI). To lessen the difficulty of understanding the programme, one term should, in my opinion, be used throughout, namely, the   latter, since the former is more theoretical, and without the addition of the word “system,” etc. (of relations), does not indicate anything complete or integral.

“The feudal-handicraft period...." Here, an expression seems to have been chosen, as though deliberately, which is least applicable to Russia, for it is questionable whether the term “feudalism” is applicable to our Middle Ages. And yet, the description given of “developed” bourgeois society is in substance applicable to Russia as well (independent small producers and the small peasants “have survived,” they sell “their labour-power periodically or constantly,” etc.). Hence, by its own formulation the draft refutes the opinion that no definition of the development of capitalism can be writ ten, which will clearly and directly have Russia in view.

“The small producers, artisan-producers, who work to order....” To order from consumers or from the merchants who give out work? Probably the former. But precisely in Russia most small producers in industry work for the market and not to order.

“... The major part of the articles of consumption”... (why not also “of the means of production”?)... “is produced for sale on the home or world market....” The words underlined are unnecessary repetition, since the increase in international exchange is dealt with in § I.

“...The means of production and of circulation” of commodities. I believe that the words underlined should be transferred from the programme to the commentary, since one can infer that the capitalists own the means of circulation from the fact that they own the means of production in a society with a commodity economy.

“...Of persons who possess no means of production and of circulation except their labour-power....” That is not the way to put it.

The reference to “constant or periodical” sale of labour power—“for a whole year or several months”—is a superfluous detail, which should be transferred to the commentary.

VI) “... An increase in the economic importance of the big industrial enterprises”—and below: the reduction of the role of independent small producers in general. Is the omission of big agricultural enterprises accidental? Or was it intended to say that the economic importance of   big enterprises increases only in industry, whereas the role of small enterprises is diminishing both in industry and in- agriculture? If the latter is the case—then that would be absolutely wrong. The “economic importance of the big enterprises” is increasing in agriculture too (it will suffice to mention machinery as one example—and other examples are given above). Naturally, the process here is immeasurably more complex, but this will have to be said (and said with concrete explanations) in the commentary.

...Dependent “more or less completely, more or less obviously, more or less onerously..."—these are words which, in my opinion, are redundant and weaken the meaning. The phrasing in the original draft—"servants and tributaries — is stronger and more graphic.

§ VII begins with superfluous reiteration, again refer ring to the “conversion of the small producers into proletarians,” although this has already been noted in §§ V and VI.

§ VII gives an elaborate explanation of the fact that the growth of the demand for labour-power lags behind the growth of its supply. The exposition, in this case, can hardly benefit from such “elaborateness.” In any case, no full explanation of the process is, of course, given (e.g., mention is made of the growing employment of female and child labour, but no mention is made of the growing intensification of labour, etc.). It would therefore be more correct to refer all explanations (with concrete examples) to the commentary, and to formulate in the programme only what the contradiction of capitalism consists in and what its tendency is.

The objection is raised that, by saying that “the greater the degree of technical progress, the more the growth of the demand for labour-power lags behind the growth of its supply,” the question is presented in an incorrect light, since the “growth of supply” is far from being dependent on “technical progress” alone. But this objection is not sound, for the words “the greater—the more” are by no means equivalent to the words “since—consequently.” The preceding paragraph explains what causes the “growth of supply” (“ruin,” “ousting,” etc.), and this will be explained more concretely in the commentary.

“...The share of the working class in the sum-total of the material wealth created by its labour is constantly diminishing....”   These words appear in the paragraph dealing with the intensification of exploitation (compare the quotation with the text directly preceding it). One might think there fore that what is meant by “share” is the relation of v to v+m. But in that event this is superfluous and does not correspond to the words “sum-total of wealth.”

If, however, the sum-total=c+v+m, then, first, it is not quite proper to term c+m (as against v) the “share,” for by “share” is meant what is shared, i.e., articles of consumption. Further, in that case this proposition belongs in substance to the next paragraph, which deals with the increase in social wealth (c+v+m) and social inequality. In view of this, it would be better to omit the words quoted as superfluous repetition.

Moreover, these words, as formulated, presuppose a society that is so developed as to consist only of wage-workers and capitalists (for the share of the small producers also decreases), and this does not accord with § V, which keeps small producers in a “developed” society too.

§ VIII should come after §§ IX and X: these latter deal with crises, i.e., with one of the contradictions of capitalism, whereas § VIII sums up all the contradictions of capitalism and all tendencies in its development.

To the words “increase in the productivity of labour” should be added: “of social labour, which is constantly be coming more socialised labour.” The draft speaks in the wrong place of the process of the socialisation of labour (§ XI) and in too narrow a form (“the process of technical progress combines the workers’ labour more and more”). Capitalism’s socialisation of labour does not consist solely in the “combination of the labour of the workers.”

The words: “A widening of the distance between the propertied and the propertyless” following the words “an increase in social inequality” are a superfluous repetition. On the other hand, reference to the “growing gulf” between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie must of necessity be added so as to define the chief social consequence of all the indicated contradictions of capitalism and pass over to the class struggle.

Incidentally, with regard to a definition of the social con sequences of capitalism, it must be stated that here particularly the draft suffers from abstractness, limiting itself as   it does to the utterly inadequate proposition: “multiplication of the difficulties in the struggle for existence and of all the privations and sufferings attendant on this struggle.” In my opinion it is absolutely essential to indicate more definitely those social consequences which weigh most heavily both upon the working class and the small producers.

An objection raised against the formulation of these consequences in the counterdraft, is, for instance, that the words “humiliation of every kind” are not true. I believe they are true, embracing as they do such phenomena as prostitution, the conversion of the “intelligentsia” into mere hirelings, the conversion of the worker into a seller of his wife and children, submission to the iron discipline of capital, the use of economic power for political oppression, for pressure on the freedom of opinion, and so on and so forth. In exactly the same way it seems to me absolutely essential to point to the “poverty and destitution of the masses” under capitalism. I am not proposing to speak of the absolute growth of poverty and destitution, but I fully share Kautsky’s opinion that “em ausführliches s.-d. Programm, welches nicht erkennen lässt, dass der Kapitalismus naturnotwendig Massenarmut und Massenelend erzeugt, das nicht als den Inhalt des Strebens der Sd-tie den Kampf gegen diese Armut und dieses Elend bezeichnet, verschweigt die entscheidende Seite unserer Bewegung und enthält also eine empfindliche Lücke[4] (against the Austrian draft).

It is just as essential, as I see it, to point out that “all the principal” (hence, not absolutely all) “advantages of the process of development of the productive forces are monopolised by a negligible minority of the population.”

§§ IX and X deal with crises. In view of the changed formulation, there is nothing in substance here to which exception could be taken. In form, however, these paragraphs suffer from repetitions (again “world market,” again “capitalist production relations”). It would be far better to completely   delete from the programme an attempt to explain crises, limiting it to noting that they are inevitable, and leaving explanation and elaboration to the commentary. As it is, reference is made, for example, to crises and to “periods of stagnation,” but on the hole the entire cycle of capitalist industry is not encompassed in any way.

The social consequences of crises are indicated, but again with repetitions (it is enough to mention the “aggravation” of the process, etc.) and again too vaguely: crises not only render the position of the small producers difficult, not only lead to the relative and absolute deterioration of their conditions, but actually ruin them and drive them into the ranks of the proletariat.

Against §§ XI and XII I have an extremely important objection in principle: these paragraphs present the relation of the proletariat to the small producers in an altogether one-sided and incorrect way (for “the working and exploited masses” consist of precisely the proletariat and the small producers). The two paragraphs are directly at variance with the fundamental theses of the Communist Manifesto, the General Rules of the International[12], and the majority of present-day Social-Democratic programmes; they leave the way open to Narodnik, “critical,” and all sorts of petty-bourgeois misapprehensions.

“...The discontent of the working and exploited masses is growing”—that is true, but it is absolutely incorrect to identify the proletariat’s discontent with that of the small producer, and merge the two as has been done here. The small producers’ discontent very often engenders (and inevitably must engender in them or among a considerable section of them) an urge to defend their existence as small proprietors, i.e., to defend the foundations of the present-day order, and even to turn it back.

“...Their struggle and, above all, the struggle of their fore most representative, the proletariat, is becoming sharper....” The struggle is growing sharper among the small producers too, of course. But their “struggle” is very often directed against the proletariat, for in many respects the very position of the small producers sharply contraposes their interests to those of the proletariat. Generally speaking, the proletariat is not at all the petty bourgeoisie’s “foremost representative.”   If that does occur, it is only when the small producers realise that their doom is inevitable, when they “d e s e r t their own standpoint to place themselves at that of the proletariat." It happens very often, on the other hand, that the anti-Semite and the big landowner, the nationalist and the Narodnik, the social-reformer and the “critic of Marxism” are the foremost representatives of the present-day small producer who has not yet deserted “his own standpoint." It is least of all appropriate to lump together each and every kind of sharpening, particularly at the present time, when the “sharpening of the struggle” of the small producers is accompanied by “sharpening of the struggle” of the “socialist Gironde” against the “Mountain.”[13]

“... International Social-Democracy stands at the head of the emancipation movement of the working and exploited masses....” Not at all. It stands at the head of the working c l a s s alone, of the working-class movement alone, and if other elements join this class these are only elements and not classes. And they come over completely and absolutely only when they “desert their own standpoint.”

It organises t h e i r fighting forces...." Wrong again. Nowhere does Social-Democracy organise the"fighting forces” of the small producers. It organises the fighting forces of the working class alone. The formulation chosen in the draft is all the less appropriate the less it applies to Russia, the more restricted the exposition (cf. § V) is to “ d e v e l o p e d” bourgeois society.

Summa summarum. The draft speaks in positive form of the revolutionary spirit of the petty bourgeoisie (if it “sup ports” the proletariat, does this not signify that it is revolutionary?) without a single word about its conservatism (and even reactionary spirit). This is entirely one-sided and incorrect.

We can (and must) point in positive form to the conservatism of the petty bourgeoisie. And o n l y i n c o n d i t i o n a l f o r m should we point to its revolutionary spirit. Only such a formulation will coincide in full with the entire spirit of Marx’s teachings. For example, the Communist Manifesto declares outright that “of all the classes that stand face to face with the bourgeoisie ... the proletariat alone is a really revolutionary class.... The small manufacturer   ... the artisan, the peasant ... are not revolutionary, but conservative. Nay more, they are reactionary.... If by chance they are revolutionary, [“if”!][5] they are so only in view of their impending transfer into the proletariat ... they d e s e r t their own standpoint to place themselves at that of the proletariat.”[14]

Let it not be said that matters have changed substantially in the half century since the Communist Manifesto. It is precisely in this respect that nothing has changed: and theoreticians have always and constantly recognised this proposition (for instance, Engels in 1894 refuted the French agrarian programme from this very standpoint.[15] He stated outright that until the small peasant deserts his standpoint, he is not with us; his place is with the anti-Semites; let them put him through the mill, and the more the bourgeois parties dupe him, the more surely he will come over to us)—moreover, history furnishes a wealth of factual confirmation of this theory, right down to the most recent times, right down to nos chers amis, Messrs. the “Critics.”

Besides, reference to the dictatorship of the proletariat contained in the original draft is missing here. Even if this were done accidentally, through an oversight, it is still indubitable that the concept of “dictatorship” is incompatible with positive recognition of outside support for the proletariat. If we really knew positively that the petty bourgeoisie will support the proletariat in the accomplishment of its, the proletariat’s, revolution it would be pointless to speak of a “dictatorship,” for we would then be fully guaranteed so overwhelming a majority that we could get on very well without a dictatorship (as the “critics” would have us believe). The recognition of the necessity for the dictatorship of the proletariat is most closely and inseparably bound up with the thesis of the Communist Manifesto that the proletariat alone is a really revolutionary class.

(Parenthetically—just how “jealous” Engels was about this part is evident from the following passus from his criticism of the Erfurt Draft. “Der Ruin weiter   Volksschichten,” [“The ruin of the broad masses of the people.”—Ed.] Engels cites from the draft, and remarks: “statt dieser deklamatorischen Phrase, die aussieht als täte uns der Ruin von Bourgeois und Kleinbürgern noch leid [!!], würde ich die einfache Tatsache erzählen: die durch den Ruin der städtischen und ländlichen Mittelstände, der Kleinbürger und Kleinbauern, den Abgrund zwischen Besitzenden und Besitzlosen erweitdrn oder vertiefen.”[6] )

I may be told that the counterdraft gives positive expression to the small producer’s conservatism (“all the other classes of present-day society stand for the preservation of the foundations of the existing economic system”), whereas revolutionariness is not expressed even conditionally.

This objection is entirely unfounded. The small producer s conditional revolutionariness is expressed in the counter-draft in the only way it can be expressed, i.e., in the wording of the indictment against capitalism. The conditional revolutionariness of the small producer is expressed:

(1) in the words about his ousting and ruin by capitalism. We, the proletariat, accuse capitalism of bringing about   large-scale production through the ruin of the peasant. Hence, the direct conclusion that i f the peasant grasps the inevitability of this process, he will “desert his own standpoint and place himself at ours.”

(2)—in the words: “Insecurity of existence and unemployment, the yoke of exploitation, and humiliation of every kind are becoming the lot” (not only of the proletariat, but) “of ever wider sections of the working population.” This very formulation expresses the fact that the proletariat provides representation of the entire working population, and moreover a representation under which we urge (and compel) all to desert their own standpoint and place themselves at ours, and not vice versa—we do not desert our own stand point, and we do not merge our class struggle with the struggle of all sorts of weathercocks.

And the idea of representation is expressed in exactly the same way

(3)—in the words about the poverty and destitution of the masses (the masses in general, and not the workers alone).

It is o n l y i n s u c h f o r m that the party of the revolutionary class can express the conditional revolutionariness of the other classes, in order to lay before them i t s understanding of their destitution and the way to remedy that destitution, and, in i t s declaration of war on capitalism, to speak not only in its own name, but in the name of all the “poverty-stricken and destitute” masses. Hence it follows that whoever accepts this doctrine must join us. It would be simply ridiculous for us to make a special point of this in the programme and declare that if certain unreliable elements adopt our standpoint they too will be revolutionary! That would be the best way to destroy faith in us precisely among those half-hearted and flabby allies who, as it is, lack faith in us.[7]

  In addition to this objection to §§ XI and XII in principle, I also have a minor formal remark to make against § XI. This is not the proper place to speak about the “material possibility of doing away with capitalism”; what this paragraph deals with is not the material but the ideological prerequisites for capitalism to be done away with. If the material prerequisites are mentioned, then reference should also be made to the ideological (moral, etc.) prerequisites. It would, however, be far more correct to transfer this “material possibility” to the paragraph that deals with capitalism’s evolution and tendencies, and not with the class struggle.

It is illogical to speak in § XII of the forthcoming social revolution—and only in § XV of this revolution itself and the necessity for it. The order should be reversed.

In § XIII, the substitution of the expression “expropriation of the exploiters” for the words “abolition (or elimination) of private ownership” is, in my opinion, not a happy one. It is less clear and precise. Nor is the end of the paragraph properly expressed: “the planned organisation of the social process of production so as to satisfy the needs of society as a whole, as well as its individual members”. That is not enough. Organisation of that kind will, perhaps, be provided even by the trusts. It would be mere definite to say “by society as a whole” (for this covers planning and indicates who is responsible for that planning), and not merely to satisfy the needs of its members, but with the object of ensuring full well-being and free, all-round development for all the members of society.

§ XIV is, in my opinion, indefinite (I do not yet know whether we shall emancipate “all” oppressed “humanity”: as, for instance, the oppression of people of weak character by those of very strong character). If would be better to use the formulation given by Marx in his criticism of the Gotha Programme: the abolition of division into classes and of the inequality arising therefrom.[16] Engels too, in his criticism of the Erfurt Programme, insisted that die Abschaflung der Klassen ist unsere Grundforderung,[The abolition of classes is our fundamental demand.[17]Ed.] and that only by a precise and outright reference to this “fundamental demand”   shall we impart an absolutely definite (and not exaggerated) meaning to our promises to emancipate all and to rid all of all evils.

§ XV—I have already dealt above with “support of the proletariat by other sections of the population” and with the omission of the “dictatorship of the proletariat.”

§ XVI is altogether strange and out of place. “The political education” of the proletariat consists in our enlightening it, organising it and directing its struggle—and that has already been dealt with in § XII (to which only “leader ship of its struggle” should be added).

§ XVII also seems to me superfluous verbosity. What is the point of speaking generally about the dependence of our immediate tasks on various social and political situations? Let this be dealt with in treatises, whereas we should say plainly that certain definite peculiarities (remnants of serf-ownership, the autocracy, etc.) modify our immediate task in a certain definite way.

§ XVIII: “In Russia capitalism is more and more becoming the predominant mode of production....” That is unquestionably insufficient. It has already become predominant (if I say that 60 has already become predominant over 40, it does not at all mean that 40 does not exist or that, it has been reduced to insignificance). We still have so many Narodniks, pro-Narodnik liberals, and “critics” rapidly reverting to Narodnik ideas that it is impermissible to leave room for the slightest vagueness on this point. And if capitalism has not yet even become “predominant,” then it would be better perhaps to wait awhile with Social-Democracy as well.

“... advancing Social-Democracy to the very first place....” Capitalism is only just becoming predominant, but we are already in the “very first” place.... In my opinion, we should not talk at all about the very first place: that is self-evident from the entire programme. Let us leave it to history to say this about us, rather than say it ourselves.

The draft evidently rejects the expression: the old, serf-owning social system, considering the expression “serf-owner ship” applicable only to the legal structure. I believe that this distinction is groundless: “serf-ownership” was, of course, a juridical institution, but it also corresponded to a specific   system of landlord (and peasant) economy, and, besides, it manifested itself in numerous day-by-day relationships that were not provided for “by law.” For this reason it is scarcely advisable to avoid the expression: “the pre-capital 1st, serf-owning social system.”

The “description” of serfdom (that the masses were, so to speak, baptised chattels) is utterly out of place and superfluous in our programme.

On the other hand, it is insufficient to say about the Influence of the remnants of the serf-owning system that they weigh heavily upon the mass of working people. We must also indicate the retardation in the development of the country’s productive forces, and other social consequences of serfdom.[8]

§ XIX. In my opinion, it is quite superfluous to state that to us democracy (resp. political liberty) is a “transitional stage” (transitional to what? After all, we openly say below that a republic is our immediate practical demand)—and that a constitution is “the natural legal complement [“property” of—obviously a mistake in copying] to capitalist production relations." This is absolutely out of place in the programme. It would be wholly sufficient for us to say that the autocracy retards or restricts “a l l social development”: hence, the development of capitalism is also incompatible with it. Details on this score should be relegated to the commentary, for in the programme they even weaken our declaration of war on the autocracy, imparting a bookish and abstract air to the programme.

Moreover, what is the point of these general passages about legal complements to capitalism and about a “legal structure” (§ XX), when later we speak much more directly and definitely about a republic? (Besides, § XX contains the expression “the old serf-owning system,” i.e., here the draft itself attributes to the word “serf-ownership” a broader meaning than the purely juridical.)

Nor is there any point in speaking about the autocracy being incompatible with a legal structure, since the demand for the former’s overthrow and replacement by a   republic follows immediately. It would be better to express ourselves more definitely about the people’s “lack of rights” under the autocracy, etc.

“...The autocracy is the bitterest enemy of the aspirations of the working class towards emancipation....” To this should be added: “and of the cultural development of the whole people,” or words to that effect. In this way (and not by talking about “representation”) we shall indicate that Social- Democracy represents the interests not only of the working class, but of all social progress.

Summing up all the above notes, I find four basic short comings in the draft, which, in my opinion, render it unacceptable:

1) extreme abstractness of many of the formulations, so that they might seem intended for a series of lectures rather than for a militant party;

2) evasion and obscuring of the question of specifically Russian capitalism are a particularly serious shortcoming, since the programme should provide a compendium and guide for agitation against Russian capitalism. We must come out with a direct appraisal of Russian capitalism and with an open declaration of war against it specifically;

3) the altogether one-sided and incorrect presentation of the relation of the proletariat to the small producers, which cuts the ground from under our feet in the war against the “critics” and many others;

4) the constant endeavour in the programme to give explanations of the process. The explanations fail in their purpose anyway, and the exposition becomes prolix, numerous repetitions occur, and the programme constantly lapses into a commentary.

Written late February-early March 1902



[1] We would challenge anyone who does not agree with this to cite or even imagine a single example of any “increase in the economic importance of the big enterprises and reduction of the role of the small enterprises” that would not make it obvious that the latter are being ousted by the former. —Lenin

[2] Such an interpretation of haziness is all the more inevitable the more widely such a definite formulation as, for instance, in the Erfurt Programme, becomes known: “...geht die Verdrängung der zersplitterten Kleinbetriebe durch kolossale Grossbetriebe (“...the scattered small enterprises are being ousted by colossal large-scale enterprises —Ed.) —Lenin

[3] There is no harm in one’s occasionally coming across a foreign word or a sentence whose full import one cannot grasp at first glance. Oral reports at meetings and written statements in the press do all that is necessary, and a brief but pithy sentence, once understood, will impress itself on the mind and become a slogan, which is never the case with a broader exposition—Ed.

[4] “...a detailed Social-Democratic programme which does not make it clear that capitalism must naturally lead to mass poverty and mass destitution, and does not regard the struggle against this poverty and this destitution as the content of Social-Democracy’s aspirations, ignores the decisive aspect of our movement and thus has a conspicuous deficiency”.—Ed.

[5] Interpolations in square brackets (within passages quoted by Lenin) have been introduced by Lenin, unless otherwise indicated–Ed. —Lenin

[6] (“in place of this declamatory phrase, which sounds as if we were in fact distressed by the ruin of the bourgeois and the petty bourgeois [!!], I would state the simple fact: through the ruin of the urban and rural middle estates—the petty bourgeois and the small peasants— the gulf between the propertied and the propertyless grows.—Ed.)[18]

The Erfurt draft programme contained the following passus: “In diesem Befreiungskampf verficht die Sozialdemokratie als die Verfechterin (or Vertreterin—Neue Zeit,”[19] IX, 2, 789) nicht bloss der Lohnarbeiter, sondern der Ausgebeuteten und Unterdrückten insgesamt, alle Forderungen, Massregeln und Einrichtungen, welche die Lage des Volkes im allgemeinen und der Arbeiterklasse im besondern zu verbessern geeignet sind.” [“In this struggle for emancipation, Social-Demooracy fights as the champion (or representative) not only of the wage Workers, but of all the exploited and oppressed, for all demands, measures, and institutions that could improve the position of the people In general, and of the working class in particular.”—Ed.] And Engels positively advised that this entire passus be deleted, asking sarcastically: “des Volkes im allgemeinen (wer ist das?)." [“The people in general (what does that mean?).”—Ed.] And, in accordance with Engels’ advice, this passus was completely scrapped; the paragraph stating that “the emancipation of the workers must be the act of the working class itself, since a l l the o t h e r classes stand for private ownership of the means of production and have the common aim of preserving the foundations of present-day society"—under the direct influence of Engels this paragraph was adopted in a sharper form than in the original draft. —Lenin

[7] The more “indulgence” we show, in the practical part of our programme, towards the small producer (e.g., to the peasant), the “more strictly” must we treat these unreliable and double-faced social elements in the theoretical part of the programme, without sacrificing one iota of o u r standpoint. Now then, we say, If you adopt this, our, standpoint, you can count on “indulgence” of every kind, but If you don’t, well then, don’t get angry with us! Under the “dictatorship” we shall say about you: there is no point in wasting words where the use of power is required.... —Lenin

[8] Incidentally. The expression in the counterdraft: “the Asiatically barbarous wag in which the peasantry is dying out” is a poor one. Way of disappearance, or something like that, could be said. —Lenin

[9] This refers to the following proposition of the Manifesto of the Communist Party: “Though not in substance, yet in form, the struggle of the proletariat with the bourgeoisie is at first a national struggle. The proletariat of each country must, of course, first of all settle matters with its own bourgeoisie.” (Marx and Engels, Selected Works, Vol. I, Moscow, 1958, p. 45.)

[10] Lenin is referring to Frederick Engels’ article, “Criticism of the Draft Social-Democratic Programme of 1891.”

[11] Russkiye Vedomosti (Russian Recorder)—a newspaper published in Moscow from 1863 onwards; it expressed the views of the moderate liberal intelligentsia, and insisted on the need for reforms that would transform Russia into a constitutional monarchy. Among its contributors in the 1880s and 1890s were the democratic writers M. Y, Saltykov-Shchedrin, G. I. Uspensky, and V. G. Korolenko. It also published items written by liberal Narodniks. In 1905 it be came the organ of the Right wing of the bourgeois Constitutional-Democratic (Cadet) Party. Lenin said that Russkiye Vedomosti was a peculiar combination of “Right-wing Cadetism and a strain of Narodism” (see present edition, Vol. 19, “Frank Speeches of a Liberal”). In 1918 the publication was closed down together with other counter-revolutionary newspapers.

[12] This refers to Karl Marx’s Provisional Rules of the International Working Men’s Association adopted on November 1, 1864, at a session of the General Council of the First International, and the General Rules of the International Working Men’s Association   adopted in September 1874 by the London Conference of the First International, which took the Provisional Rules of the International as its basis (see Marx and Engels, Selected Works, Vol. I, Moscow, 1958, pp. 386-89).

[13] The Mountain (la Montagne) and the Gironde were the names of two political groupings of the bourgeoisie at the time of the French bourgeois revolution of the end of the eighteenth century. The Mountain—the Jacobins—was the name given to the more determined representatives of the revolutionary class of the time— the bourgeoisie—who advocated the abolition of absolutism and feudalism. Unlike the Jacobins, the Girondists wavered between revolution and counter-revolution, and entered into deals with the monarchy.

Lenin called the opportunist trend in Social-Democracy the “socialist Gironde,” and the revolutionary Social-Democrats— “proletarian jacobins." the ’Mountain." After the R.S.D.L.P. split into Bolsheviks and Mensheviks, Lenin frequently stressed that the Mensheviks were the Girondist trend in the working-class movement.

[14] Marx and Engels, Selected Works, Vol. 1, Moscow, 1958, pp. 43-44.

[15] This refers to Frederick Engels’ article, “The Peasant Question in France and Germany.” in which he criticised the agrarian programme of the Workers’ Party of France, adopted at the Marseilles Party Congress in 1892 and enlarged at the Nantes Party Congress in 1894 (see Marx and Engels, Selected Works, Vol. 11. Moscow. 1958, pp. 420-40).

[18] Frederick Engels, “Criticism of the Draft Social Democratic Programme of 1891.”

[19] Die Neue Zeit (New Times)—a theoretical magazine of the German Social-Democratic Party, published in Stuttgart from 1883 to 1923. Before October 1917, it was edited by Karl Kautsky. later by Heinrich Cunow. Some of the writings of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels were first published in Die Neue Zeit: “Critique of the Gotha Programme” by Karl Marx (in No 18, 1890-91). “Criticism of the Draft Social-Democratic Programme of 1891” by Frederick Engels (in No. 1, 1901-02). and others. Engels constantly helped the Editorial Board of the magazine with his advice, and not infrequently criticised it for allowing deviations from Marxism to appear in it. Contributors to Die Neue Zeit included prominent leaders of the German and international working-class movement at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries, such as August Bebel, Wilhelm Liebknecht, Rosa Luxemburg, Franz Mehring, Clara Zetkin. G. V. Plekhanov. Paul Lafargue, and Victor Adler. From the second half of the nineties, the periodical began systematically publishing articles by revisionists,   including a series of articles by Eduard Bernstein entitled “Problems of Socialism,” which opened the revisionists’ campaign against Marxism. During the First World War the magazine adopted a Centrist, Kautskian position, in actual fact supporting the social-chauvinists.

[16] Marx and Engels, Selected Works, Vol. II, Moscow, 1958, p. 30.

[17] Frederick Engels, “Criticism of the Draft Social-Democratic Programme of 1891 ."

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