V. I.   Lenin

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


Opinion On Plekhanov’s Second Draft

Four basic shortcomings pervade the whole draft and, in my opinion, make it entirely unacceptable:

1) In the manner of formulation of the most important section, which contains a definition of capitalism, this draft is a programme of an economic textbook on capitalism in general rather than a programme for the proletariat, which is fighting against very real manifestations of a very definite capitalism.

2) The programme is particularly unsuitable for the party of the Russian proletariat, because the evolution of Russian capitalism and the antagonisms and social evils engendered by Russian capitalism are almost entirely evaded and obscured by the selfsame system of defining capitalism in general. In its programme the party of the Russian proletariat should formulate in the most unambiguous manner its arraignment of Russian capitalism, its declaration of war on Russian capitalism. This is all the more necessary inasmuch as the Russian programme cannot be identical in this respect with the European programmes: the latter speak of capitalism and of bourgeois society without indicating that these concepts are equally applicable to Austria, Germany, and so on, because that goes without saying. In relation to Russia this cannot be taken for granted.

To dispense with the question by saying that capitalism “in its developed form” is distinguished in general by such and such features—and in Russia capitalism “is becoming predominant”—is to evade making the concrete arraignment and declaration of war that is most important for a party engaged in a practical struggle.

That is why the draft fails to achieve one of the principal aims of a programme: to provide the Party with a directive for its day-by-day propaganda and agitation concerning all the various manifestations of Russian capitalism.

3) Some of the most important paragraphs are formulated in the draft with an inaccuracy which will inevitably engender most dangerous misinterpretations and hamper our theoretical struggle and propaganda. Thus, for example, the growth of large-scale production is limited to “industrial” enterprises. The evolution of agrarian capitalism is disregarded or even evaded. Further, instead of “the dictatorship of the proletariat” there is “the revolution which the proletariat will have to effect with the support of other sections of the population which are suffering from capital ist exploitation,” and even the class struggle of the proletariat has been replaced by “the struggle of the working and exploited masses.” This formulation contradicts the basic principle of the International: “The emancipation of the workers must be the act of the working class itself.” Besides the proletariat, the other part of the “working and exploited masses” (i.e., mainly the small producers) is only partially revolutionary in its struggle against the bourgeoisie. It is revolutionary only when, “with a view to joining the proletariat,” it “places itself at the standpoint of the proletariat” (The Communist Manifesto). As for the reactionary nature of the small producers, that is not brought out in the draft, so that on the whole the relation of the proletariat to the “working and exploited masses” is presented incorrectly. [For example, the draft reads: “their struggle (the struggle of the working and exploited masses) and, above all, the struggle of their foremost representative, the proletariat, is becoming sharper.” “The sharpening of the struggle” of the small producers is expressed in anti-Semitism, in Caesarism, in peasant unions against the farm labourers, and even in the struggle of the socialist Gironde against the Mountain. Representation of all the working and exploited masses by the proletariat should be expressed in the programme in our arraignment of capitalism for the poverty of the m a s s e s (and not only for the poverty of the working class), for unemployment among “ever wider sections of the working population” (and not of the working class).]

4) The draft constantly slips away from a programme in the strict sense of the word towards a commentary. A programme should give concise statements, without a single superfluous word, and leave all explanations to commentaries, pamphlets, agitation, etc. Engels was therefore fully justified when he accused the Erfurt Programme of being too long, abounding in too much detail and repetition, so as to tend towards becoming a commentary.

In the draft this shortcoming is still more manifest; there is a dreadful amount of repetition; in any case, the attempts made to introduce explanations of the process into the programme (instead of merely giving a definition of the process) fail to achieve their purpose and render the programme impossibly prolix.

Written in late February-early March 1902



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