Vladimir Lenin

Revision of the Party Programme

Written: October 6-8 (19-21), 1917
First Published: October 1917 in the journal ProsveshcheniyeNo.1-2; Published according to the Prosveshcheniyetext,
Source:Lenin’s Collected Works, Progress Publishers, Moscow, Volume 26, 1972, pp. 149-178
Translated: Yuri Sdobnikov and George Hanna, Edited by George Hanna
Transcription & HTML Markup: Charles Farrell and David Walters
Online Version: Lenin Internet Archive November, 2000


The extraordinary congress of the Party, the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party (Bolsheviks), called by the Central Committee for October 17, has on the agenda the revision of the Party programme. The Conference of April 24-29, passed a resolution on the necessity for such a revision and indicated in eight points the direction which this revision should follow.[See present edition, Vol. 24, pp 280-81.] Then, later, pamphlets were published in Petrograd [Materials Relating to the Revision of the Party Programme, edited and with a preface by N. Lenin, Priboi Publishers, 1917.] and Moscow,[Materials Relating to the Revision of the Party Programme. Collection of articles by V. Milyutin V. Sokolnikov, A. Lomov, V. Smirnov. Published by the Regional Bureau of the Moscow Industrial District of the R.S.D.L.P., 1917.] which took up the question of revision, and on August 10 the Moscow journal Spartak No. 4 published an article by Comrade N. I. Bukharin devoted to the same subject.

Let us examine the points raised by the Moscow comrades.


For the Bolsheviks, who all agree on the need to "evaluate imperialism and the epoch of imperialist wars in connection with the approaching socialist revolution" (Clause 1 of the resolution adopted by the Conference of April 24-29), the main question in the revision of the Party programme is that of formulating a new programme. Should we round out the old programme by adding a characterisation of imperialism (I advocated this opinion in the Petrograd pamphlet), or should we change the whole text of the old programme? (This opinion was expressed by the group which was formed at the April Conference, and is now being advocated by the Moscow comrades.) This is primarily the question confronting our Party.

We have two drafts. The one I proposed complements the old programme by adding a characterisation of imperialism [See present edition, Vol. 24, pp. 450-60 and 469. —Ed.] the second, proposed by Comrade V. Sokolnikov, and based on the remarks of a committee of three (this committee was elected by the group formed at the April Conference), changes the entire general part of the programme.

I also had occasion to express my opinion (in the above mentioned pamphlet, p. 11[Ibid., pp. 464-65. —Ed. i.e.,]) concerning the theoretical incorrectness of the plan of revision indicated by the group. Let us see now how this plan is carried out in Comrade Sokolnikov's draft.

Comrade Sokolnikov has divided the general part of our programme into ten sections, giving each a number (see pp. 11-18 of the Moscow pamphlet). We will adhere to his numerical scheme so as to enable the reader to find the relevant passages.

The first section of the present programme consists of two clauses. The first declares that the labour movement has become international because of the development of exchange; the second, that the Russian Social-Democratic Party considers itself one of the contingents of the army of the world proletariat. (Further on in the second section the common ultimate aim of all Social-Democrats is mentioned.)

Comrade Sokolnikov leaves the second clause intact, while he replaces the first by a new one, adding to the point about the development of exchange an allusion to the "export of capital" and the growth of the struggle of the proletariat into "a world-wide socialist revolution".

The immediate result is inconsistency, a mixture of subjects, a confusion of two types of programme structure. One of the two: either we must begin with the characterisation of imperialism as a whole—and in that case we must not single out only the "export of capital", or leave in, as Comrade Sokolnikov does, the analysis of "the process of development" of bourgeois society in the second section; or we must leave the type of programme structure unchanged, first explain why our movement has become international, what its common ultimate goal is, how the "process of development" of bourgeois society is leading to this goal.

To make the inconsistency and lack of logic in Comrade Sokolnikov's formulation of the programme more evident, we will quote in full the opening sentences of the old programme:

"The development of exchange has established such close ties between all the nations of the civilised world that the great movement of the proletariat towards emancipation was bound to become—and has long since become—international."

Here Comrade Sokolnikov is dissatisfied with two points—(1) speaking of the development of exchange, the programme describes an antiquated "period of development"; (2) after the word "civilised" he puts an exclamation mark and says that "the close ties between metropolis and colony" are "not taken cognisance of" in our programme.

"Can protectionism, tariff wars, imperialist wars sever the ties of the proletarian movement?" queries Comrade Sokolnikov? and he himself answers: "If we are to believe the text of our programme, they can, for they sever the ties established by exchange."

Rather strange criticism. Neither protectionism, nor tariff wars "sever" exchange; they only change it temporarily or interrupt it at one point, permitting its continuation at another. Exchange has not been eliminated by the present war, it has only been made difficult in some places and has shifted to other places, but it still remains an international tie. The most obvious proof is the course of exchange. This is the first point. And secondly, we read in Comrade Sokolnikov's draft: "The development of productive forces, which, on the basis of the exchange of goods and the export of capital, draws all peoples into one world economy", etc Imperialist war (in one place, for a time) also interrupts the export of capital, as well as exchange; therefore, Comrade Sokolnikov's "criticism" may be turned against him.

Thirdly, the old programme showed why the labour movement "has long since become" international. It had unquestionably become international before the export of capital, which is the highest stage of capitalism.

To sum up: Comrade Sokolnikov inserted a bit of the definition of imperialism (the export of capital) in a place where it is obviously incongruous.

Moreover, the words "the civilised world" do not appeal to Comrade Sokolnikov, for, in his opinion, they refer to something peaceful and harmonious, and leave the colonies out.

Quite the contrary. Speaking of the "civilised world", the programme points out the disharmony, the existence of uncivilised countries (this is a fact), while in Comrade Sokolnikov's draft things appear much more harmonious, for it speaks simply of "drawing all peoples into one world economy"! As if all peoples were equally drawn into this one world economy! As if there existed no relationship of bondage between the uncivilised and the "civilised" peoples precisely on the basis of "all peoples" being drawn "into one world economy".

Comrade Sokolnikov has really weakened the old programme on the two points he mentions. He has put less emphasis on internationalism. It is very important for us to point out that it emerged long ago, long before the era of finance capital. His wording gives the impression of a greater "harmony" in respect of the colonies. It is nevertheless unfortunately true that so far the labour movement has affected only the civilised countries, and to ignore this fact is not proper.

I would be ready to agree with Comrade Sokolnikov had he demanded a clearer exposition of the exploitation of the colonies. That is a really important component of the concept "imperialism". But in the first section of Comrade Sokolnikov's draft, there is no mention of it. He scatters the various component parts of the concept "imperialism" over several places to the detriment of consistency and clarity.

We shall soon see how Comrade Sokolnikov's entire draft suffers from this looseness and inconsistency.


Let the reader observe the general arrangement and the sequence of topics in the various sections of the old programme (we follow Comrade Sokolnikov's numerical scheme):

1. The labour movement has long since become international. We are one of its contingents.

2. The final goal of the movement is determined by the course of development of bourgeois society. The point of departure is that the means of production are privately owned and the proletariat is propertyless.

3. The growth of capitalism. The crowding out of the small producers.

4. The growth of exploitation (female labour, the reserve labour army, etc.).

5. Crises.

6. The progress of technology; the growth of inequality.

7. Growing struggle on the part of the proletariat. Material conditions for the replacement of capitalism by socialism.

8. The proletarian social revolution.

9. Its premise—the dictatorship of the proletariat.

10. The task of the Party—to lead the struggle of the proletariat for the social revolution.

I add another point:

11. Capitalism has developed to its highest stage (imperialism), and the era of the proletarian revolution has now set in.

Compare this with the arrangement of the subject matter—not the individual corrections to the text, but the subject matter itself—in Comrade Sokolnikov's draft, and also the points he adds on imperialism.

1. The labour movement is international. We are one of its contingents. (Inserted—the export of capital, world economy, the growth of the struggle into the world revolution; i.e., a bit of the definition of imperialism is inserted.)

2. The final goal of the movement is determined by the course of development of bourgeois society. The point of departure is that the means of production are privately owned and the proletariat is propertyless. (In the middle is inserted: omnipotent banks and syndicates, monopoly combines on a world scale; i.e., another bit of the definition of imperialism is inserted.)

3. The growth of capitalism. The crowding out of the small producers.

4. The growth of exploitation (female labour, the reserve labour army, foreign workers, etc.).

5. Crises and wars. Still another bit of the definition of imperialism is inserted: "attempts to partition the globe"; monopoly associations and the export of capital are repeated once more; the term "finance capital" is explained parenthetically as meaning "the product of a merger of industrial and banking capital".

6. The progress of technology; the growth of inequality. Yet another bit of the definition of imperialism is put in: high cost of living, militarism. Monopoly associations are mentioned again.

7. Growing struggle on the part of the proletariat. Material conditions for the replacement of capitalism by socialism. In the middle there is an interpolation, again reiterating: "monopoly capitalism", and pointing out how the banks and the syndicates have prepared the apparatus for social regulation, etc.

8. The proletarian social revolution. (A note that it will put an end to the rule of finance capital.)

9. Its premise—the dictatorship of the proletariat.

10. The task of the Party—to lead the struggle of the proletariat for the social revolution. (In the middle there is an interpolation that the latter is now on the order of the day.)

I believe that this comparative study clearly shows that Comrade Sokolnikov's draft suffers from the "mechanical" additions some comrades were so afraid of. Without any logical sequence, various bits of the definition of imperialism have been scattered throughout the draft in the form of a mosaic. There is no general and integral characterisation of imperialism. There are too many repetitions. The old canvas is preserved. Preserved also is the general plan of the old programme which points out that the "ultimate goal" of the movement is "determined" by the nature of contemporary bourgeois society and the course of its development. But it is just this "course of development" which is not brought out; and the effect is that odds and ends of the definition of imperialism have been inserted, mostly inappropriately.

Let us take the second section. Here Comrade Sokolnikov left unchanged the beginning and the end; the beginning states that the means of production are in the hands of a minority; the end, that the majority of the population are proletarians or semi-proletarians. Right in the middle, Comrade Sokolnikov inserts a special phrase to the effect that "during the last quarter of a century the direct or indirect control of production organised on capitalist lines has passed into the hands of all-powerful" banks, trusts, etc.

This is mentioned earlier than the crowding out of the small by the big producersThe latter fact is first mentioned in the third section. But are not trusts the highest and latest manifestation of the very process of the crowding out of small-scale by large-scale production? Is it appropriate to speak first of trusts, and then of the ousting of the small producer? Is it not a violation of logical sequence? Where, then, did the trusts come from? Is this not an error in theory? How and why has control "passed" into their hands? All this cannot be understood before the process of the ousting of the small producer is made clear.

Let us take the third section that deals with the crowding out of small by large enterprises. Here too Comrade Sokolnikov retains the beginning (the increasing importance of big enterprises) and the end (small producers are being crowded out). In the middle, however, he adds that big enterprises "have merged into gigantic organisms which combine a series of consecutive steps of production and exchange". But this insertion deals with an entirely different matter, namely, the concentration of the means of production and the socialisation of labour by capitalism, the creation of the material conditions for the replacement of capitalism by socialism. In the old programme this point is not dealt with until the seventh section.

Comrade Sokolnikov adheres to the general plan of the old programme. He, too, speaks of the material conditions for the replacement of capitalism by socialism only in the seventh section. He also retains in the seventh section a mention of the concentration of means of production and the socialisation of labour!

And so the concentration of capital is indicated in part a few paragraphs before an entire general, summarising section specially devoted to the subject. This is devoid of all logic and is likely to render the programme less intelligible to the masses.


Comrade Sokolnikov "subjects to a general revision" the fifth section of the programme, the one dealing with crises. He finds that the old programme "sins in theory to win popularity" and "deviates from Marx's theory of crises".

Comrade Sokolnikov suggests that the word "overproduction" is made "the basis of the explanation" of crises in the old programme and that "such a view is more in keeping with the theory of Rodbertus who explains crises as being due to under-consumption by the working class".

A comparison of the old text with the new one proposed by Comrade Sokolnikov will show how unsuccessful his hunt for theoretical heresy has been, and how Rodbertus has been dragged in by the hair.

The old text contains the following, after mention (in the fourth section) of "technical progress", intensified exploitation of labour, and relatively lower consumption by the workers: "This state of affairs in the bourgeois countries, etc., makes it more and more difficult for them to market commodities produced in ever-increasing quantities. Overproduction, manifesting itself in . . . crises . . . and periods of stagnation . . . is an inevitable consequence. . . ."

It is clear that here overproduction is by no means used as the "basis of the explanation" of crises, but that this is only a description of the origin of crises and periods of stagnation. In Comrade Sokolnikov's draft we read the following:

"The development of the productive forces assuming these contradictory forms, in which the conditions of production come into conflict with the conditions of consumption and the conditions for the realisation of capital with those for its accumulation—this development, whose sole motive force is the pursuit of profit, has as its inevitable consequence acute industrial crises and depressions which signify the cessation of the sale of commodities, anarchically produced in ever-increasing quantities."

Comrade Sokolnikov said exactly the same thing, because "the cessation of the sale of commodities" produced in "ever increasing quantities", is exactly what we call overproduction. There is no need for him to fear this word, there is nothing inaccurate in it. It is useless for Comrade Sokolnikov to write that instead of "overproduction", "underproduction might be used, with much the same or even more reason" (page 15 of the Moscow pamphlet).

Well, just try calling the "cessation of the sale of commodities", "produced in ever-increasing quantities", "underproduction"! It cannot be done.

Rodbertus's theory is not merely a matter of using the word "overproduction" (which alone exactly describes one of the profoundest contradictions of capitalism), but of explaining crises merely as the result of insufficient consumption by the working class. The old programme does not deduce crises from insufficient consumption. It bases its explanation on "this state of affairs in the bourgeois countries", as has been described in the preceding section of the programme and which consists in "technical progress" and "the relatively lower demand for human labour-power". Alongside of this the old programme speaks of "the ever-growing competition on the world market".

Here something basic is said about the conflict between the conditions for accumulation and the conditions for realisation, and is said much more clearly. The theory has not been "changed" here at all, "to win popularity", as Comrade Sokolnikov erroneously thinks, but is presented clearly and popularly, which is a good point.

Of crises, to be sure, one could write volumes, one might give a more concrete analysis of the conditions of accumulation, mention the role of the means of production, of the exchange of surplus value and variable capital expressed in the means of production for constant capital expressed in articles of consumption, of the depreciation of constant capital due to new inventions, and so on, and so forth. But Comrade Sokolnikov makes no attempt to do this! His supposed correction of the programme consists only in the following:

1. Having preserved the plan of transition from the fourth to the fifth section, from the reference to technical progress, etc., to crises, he weakened the connection between the two sections by leaving out the words, "this state of affairs".

2. He added theoretical-sounding phrases about the conflict between the conditions of production and the conditions of consumption, and between the conditions for realisation and the conditions for accumulation—phrases which are quite correct but which do not express any new idea, for the preceding section gives the substance of all this more clearly.

3. He adds "the pursuit of profit"—an expression hardly suited to the programme, and which is used here, we suspect, precisely "to win popularity", for the same idea is expressed several times in the phrases about "conditions for realisation", commodity production, etc.

4. He substitutes "depression" for "stagnation"; an unfortunate change.

5. He adds the word "anarchically" to the old text ("commodities, anarchically produced in ever-increasing quantities"). This addition is theoretically wrong, for "anarchy" or "absence of planning" using an expression from the Erfurt Programme and contested by Engels, does not exactly characterise trusts.[Engels criticised the expressions "private production" and "absence of planning" in the draft of the Erfurt Programme. He wrote: "If we go over from stock companies to trusts, which dominate and mononolise whole branches of industry, not only private production, but also the absence of planning comes to an end."]

Here is how Comrade Sokolnikov puts it:

"Commodities are anarchically produced in ever-increasing quantities. Efforts of capitalist associations (trusts and the like) to prevent crises by limiting production end in failure," etc.

But it is by trusts that commodities are not produced anarchically, but according to a plan. Trusts do not merely "limit" production. They do not make any efforts to prevent crises, nor can they make any such "efforts". Comrade Sokolnikov is guilty of a number of inaccuracies. What he should have said was: although trusts produce commodities not anarchically but according to a plan, crises nevertheless cannot be averted because of the above-mentioned characteristics of capitalism which are also inherent in the trusts. And if trusts, in periods of the greatest prosperity and speculation, limit production in the sense of being careful "not to go too far", then at best they only succeed in saving the largest enterprises; but crises come just the same.

Summarising all that has been said on the question of crises, we come to the conclusion that Comrade Sokolnikov has not improved upon the old programme. On the contrary, the new draft contains inaccuracies. The need to correct the old programme has not been proved.


In his draft Comrade Sokolnikov makes two theoretical errors on the question of wars of an imperialist nature.

First, he does not give an appreciation of the present war. He says that the imperialist epoch generates imperialist wars. This is correct and should, of course, be stated in the programme. But this is not enough. Besides this it is necessary to say that the present war of 1914-17 is imperialist. The German Spartacus group in their "theses" published in German in 1915 advanced the proposition that in an era of imperialism national wars are impossible.[ 71] This is obviously a wrong assertion, for imperialism makes the oppression of nations more acute and, as a result, national revolts and national wars (attempts to draw a line of demarcation between revolts and wars are doomed to failure) are not only possible and probable but absolutely inevitable.

Marxism demands a very precise assessment of each separate war on the basis of concrete data. To evade the question of the present war by resorting to general discussions is wrong in theory and inadmissible in practice. This method is used as a screen by the opportunists, they use it for evasion. They say that imperialism is, in general, an epoch of imperialist wars, but this particular war is not wholly imperialist (thus argued, for instance, Kautsky).

Secondly, Comrade Sokolnikov links "crises and wars", as if they were a two-in-one companion of capitalism in general, and of modern capitalism in particular. On pages 20 and 21 of the Moscow pamphlet, he repeats the "crises and wars" combination in his draft three times. Here it is not only a question of the undesirability of repetitions in the programme. It is also a question of incorrectness in principle.

Crises in the shape of overproduction, or "cessation of the sale of commodities", if Comrade Sokolnikov insists on banishing the word overproduction, are phenomena exclusive to capitalism. But wars are also characteristic of the slave-owning and serf systems of economy. Imperialist wars also occurred in the period of slavery (the war between Rome and Carthage was on both sides an imperialist war), as well as in the Middle Ages and in the epoch of mercantile capitalism. A war is certainly imperialist if both warring sides oppress foreign countries or nationalities, and are fighting for their share of the loot and for the right to "oppress and rob" more than the others.

If we were to say that only modern capitalism, only imperialism, has brought imperialist wars in its wake, it would be correct, for the preceding stage of capitalism, the stage of free competition, or the stage of pre-monopoly capitalism, was characterised in Western Europe mainly by national wars. But if we were to say that in the preceding stage there were no imperialist wars at all, it would be incorrect. It would mean that we had forgotten the "colonial" wars, which are also imperialist. This is the first point.

And secondly, the linking up of "crises and wars" is particularly incorrect, for these are quite different phenomena of different historical origin and different class significance. For instance, it would be wrong to say, as Comrade Sokolnikov says in his draft, that "both crises and wars, in turn, mean still greater ruin for the small producers and increase the dependence of hired labour on capital. . .". For there could possibly be wars fought for the emancipation of hired labour from capital. In the course of the struggle of wage-workers against the capitalist class, wars of a revolutionary and not only of a reactionary-imperialist nature are possible. War is the continuation of the politics of this or that class; and in every class society, slave-owning, feudal, or capitalist, there have been wars which continued the politics of the oppressor classes and also wars which continued the politics of the oppressed classes. This is exactly why it would be wrong to say, as Comrade Sokolnikov does, that crises and wars show that the capitalist system is changing from a form of the development of productive forces into a hindrance to it".

It is true that the present imperialist war, by its reactionary character and the hardships it entails, revolutionises the masses and accelerates the revolution, and this must be stated. It is also true that imperialist wars in general are typical of an imperialist epoch, and this may be mentioned. But it would be wrong to say this about all "wars" in general, and, moreover, under no circumstances should crises and wars be tied up together.


We must draw our conclusions on the chief question which should, according to the unanimous decision of all Bolsheviks, be primarily dealt with and assessed in the new programme—the question of imperialism. Comrade Sokolnikov maintains that such treatment and assessment could be more expediently given piecemeal, so to speak, dividing up the various characteristics of imperialism among various sections of the programme. I think it would be more to the purpose to present it in a special section or a special part of the programme, by gathering together everything that there is to say about imperialism. The members of the Party now have both drafts before them, and the congress will decide. We are in full accord with Comrade Sokolnikov in that imperialism must be dealt with. What we must find out is whether there are differences of opinion as to how imperialism should be treated and assessed.

From this point of view let us examine the two drafts of the new programme. In my draft five basic distinguishing features of imperialism are presented: (1) capitalist monopoly associations; (2) the fusion of banking and industrial capital; (3) the export of capital to foreign countries; (4) the territorial partition of the globe, already completed; (5) the partition of the globe among international economic trusts. (In my pamphlet Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism, which came out after the Materials Relating to the Revision of the Party Programme, these five distinguishing features of imperialism are cited on p. 85.[See present edition, Vol. 22, p. 266. —Ed.]) In Comrade Sokolnikov's draft we actually find the same five basic features, so that on the question of imperialism there is apparently complete agreement in principle within our Party—as was to be expected, for the practical propaganda of our Party on this question, both oral and printed, has long since, from the very beginning of the revolution, shown the complete unanimity of all the Bolsheviks on this fundamental question.

What remains to be examined is the differences in the way the definition and characterisation of imperialism are formulated. Both drafts point specifically to the time when capitalism may be properly regarded as having become transformed into imperialism. The necessity for such a statement in the interests of precision and correct historical evaluation of economic development would hardly be denied. Comrade Sokolnikov says: "during the last quarter of a century"; I say: "about the beginning of the twentieth century". In the above-mentioned pamphlet on imperialism (on pp: 10 and 11, for instance[See present edition, Vol. 22, pp. 200-02. —Ed.]) I cited the testimony of an economist who has made a special study of cartels and syndicates. According to him, the turn towards the complete victory of the cartels in Europe came with the crisis of 1900-03. That is why, it seems, it would be more accurate to say: "about the beginning of the twentieth century" than "during the last quarter of a century". It would be more correct for still another reason. The above-mentioned specialist and all other European economists, generally work with data supplied by Germany, and Germany is far ahead of other countries in the formation of cartels.

Furthermore, speaking of monopolies my draft says: "Monopolist associations of capitalists have assumed decisive importance." Comrade Sokolnikov calls attention to monopoly associations several times. Only once is he fairly definite:

"During the last quarter of a century the direct or indirect control of production organised on capitalist lines has passed into the hands of all-powerful, interlocking banks, trusts and syndicates which have formed world-wide monopoly associations under the direction of a handful of magnates of finance capital."

Here, it appears, there is too much "propaganda". "To win popularity" something that has no place there is injected into the programme. In newspaper articles, in speeches, in popular pamphlets, "propaganda" is indispensable; the programme of a party, however, must be distinguished by the precision of its economics; it must contain nothing superfluous. The statement that "capitalist monopoly associations have acquired decisive importance" seems to me more exact; it says all that is necessary. Besides much superfluous matter, the above-quoted excerpt from Comrade Sokolnikov's draft contains an expression questionable from the theoretical point of view—"control of production organised on capitalist lines". Is it only organised on capitalist lines? No. This is too weak. Even production not so organised—petty craftsmen, peasants, small cotton-growers in the colonies, etc., etc.—has become dependent on banks and finance capital in general. When we speak of "world capitalism" in general (and this is the only capitalism we can discuss here if we are not to make mistakes), our statement that monopolist associations acquire "a decisive importance" does not mean that any other producers are excluded from subordination to this rule. To limit the influence of monopolist associations to "production organised on capitalist lines" is incorrect.

To proceed. In his draft, Comrade Sokolnikov twice repeats the same thing about the role played by banks: once in the above-quoted passage and a second time in the section dealing with crises and wars, where he defines finance capital as "the product of a merger of banking and industrial capital". My draft says that "enormously concentrated banking capital has fused with industrial capital". To say it once in the programme is sufficient.

The third feature "the export of capital to foreign countries has assumed vast dimensions" (so in my draft). In Comrade Sokolnikov's draft, we find a mere reference to the "export of capital" in one place, while in another, and in an entirely different connection, we read of "new countries which are fields for the utilisation of capital exported in search of superprofits". It is difficult to accept as correct the statement on superprofits and new countries since capital has also been exported from Germany to Italy, from France to Switzerland, etc. Under imperialism, capital has begun to be exported to the old countries as well, and not for superprofits alone. What is true with regard to the new countries is not true with regard to the export of capital in general.

The fourth feature is what Hilferding has called "the struggle for economic territory". This term is not exact, for it does not indicate what mostly distinguishes modern imperialism from the older forms of struggle for economic territory. Ancient Rome fought for such territories; the European kingdoms in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries fought for such territories and acquired colonies; so did old Russia by her conquest of Siberia, etc. The distinguishing feature of modern imperialism is (as pointed out in my draft) that "the whole world has been divided up territorially among the richer countries", i.e., the partition of the earth among various states has been completed. This circumstance makes the conflicts for a re-partitioning of the globe all the sharper, and is the cause of the particularly sharp collisions which lead to war.

All this is expressed in Comrade Sokolnikov's draft with great verbosity and is hardly accurate theoretically. But before I quote his statement of the case which also includes the economic partitioning of the globe, I will first touch upon that fifth and last feature of imperialism. Here is how this is expressed in my draft:

"The economic partitioning of the world among international trusts has begun." The data of political economy and statistics do not warrant any more elaborate statement. This partitioning of the world is a very important process, but it has just begun. This partitioning, or rather re-partitioning of the world, is bound to cause imperialist wars since the territorial partition is complete, i.e., there are no more "free" lands that can be grabbed without war against a rival nation.

Let us see now how Comrade Sokolnikov formulates this part of the programme:

"But the realm of capitalist relations becomes ever wider; they are carried across frontiers, into new lands. These lands serve the capitalists as markets for commodities, as sources of raw materials, as fields for the utilisation of capital exported in search of superprofits. The vast accumulation of surplus value at the disposal of finance capital (a product of a merger of banking and industrial capital) is dumped on to the world market. The rivalry of powerful nationally and at times internationally organised associations of capitalists for command of the market, for the possession or control of territories of weaker countries, i.e., for the exclusive right to oppress them mercilessly, inevitably leads to attempts at partitioning the whole world among the richest capitalist countries, to imperialist wars, which engender universal suffering, ruin, and degeneration."

Here we have too many words, covering up a series of theoretical errors. One cannot speak of "attempts" at dividing up the world, because the world has already been divided up. The war of 1914-17 is not "an attempt at partitioning" the world, but a struggle for the re-partitioning of a world already divided. The war became inevitable for capitalism, because a few years before it imperialism divided up the world according to yardsticks of strength now out of date, and which are being "corrected" by the war.

The struggle for colonies (for "new lands"), and the struggle for "the possession of territories of weaker countries", all existed before imperialism. Modern imperialism is characterised by something else, namely, by the fact that at the beginning of the twentieth century the whole earth was divided up and occupied by various countries. That is why, under capitalism, the re-partitioning of "world domination" could only take place at the price of a world war. "Internationally organised associations of capitalists" existed before imperialism. Every joint-stock company with a membership of capitalists from various countries is an "internationally organised association of capitalists".

The distinguishing feature of imperialism is something quite different, something which did not exist before the twentieth century—the economic partitioning of the world among international trusts, the partitioning of countries, by agreement, into market areas. This particular point has not been expressed in Comrade Sokolnikov's draft, the power of imperialism is, therefore, represented as much weaker than it really is.

Finally, it is theoretically incorrect to speak of dumping a vast accumulation of surplus value on to the world market. This reminds one of Proudhon's theory of realisation, according to which capitalists may easily realise both fixed and variable capital, but find it difficult to realise surplus value. As a matter of fact capitalists cannot realise without difficulties and crises either surplus value or variable and fixed capital. Commodities dumped on to the market are not only accumulated value, but also value reproducing variable capital and fixed capital. For instance, stocks of rails or iron are thrown into the world market, and should be exchanged for articles consumed by the workers, or for other means of production (wood, oil, etc.).


Having thus concluded our analysis of Comrade Sokolnikov's draft, we must note one very valuable addition which he proposes and which in my opinion should be adopted and even developed. To the paragraph which deals with technical progress and the greater employment of female and child labour, he proposes to add the phrase "as well as the labour of unskilled foreign workers imported from backward countries". This addition is valuable and necessary. The exploitation of worse paid labour from backward countries is particularly characteristic of imperialism. On this exploitation rests, to a certain degree, the parasitism of rich imperialist countries which bribe a part of their workers with higher wages while shamelessly and unrestrainedly exploiting the labour of "cheap" foreign workers. The words "worse paid" should be added and also the words "and frequently deprived of rights"; for the exploiters in "civilised" countries always take advantage of the fact that the imported foreign workers have no rights. This is often to be seen in Germany in respect of workers imported from Russia; in Switzerland of Italians; in France, of Spaniards and Italians, etc.

It would be expedient, perhaps, to emphasise more strongly and to express more vividly in our programme the prominence of the handful of the richest imperialist countries which prosper parasitically by robbing colonies and weaker nations. This is an extremely important feature of imperialism. To a certain extent it facilitates the rise of powerful revolutionary movements in countries that are subjected to imperialist plunder, and are in danger of being crushed and partitioned by the giant imperialists (such as Russia), and on the other hand, tends to a certain extent to prevent the rise of profound revolutionary movements in the countries that plunder, by imperialist methods, many colonies and foreign lands, and thus make a very large (comparatively) portion of their population participants in the division of the imperialist loot.

I would therefore suggest that the point on this exploitation of a number of weak countries by the richest should be inserted in that section of my draft where social-chauvinism is described (page 22 of the pamphlet[See present edition, Vol. 24, p. 470. —Ed.]). The relevant passage in the draft would then assume the following form (the additions are in italics):

"Such a perversion is, on the one hand, the social-chauvinist trend, socialism in word and chauvinism in deed, the use of the 'defence of the fatherland' slogan to hide the predatory interests 'their own' national bourgeoisie pursues in an imperialist war and to maintain the privileged position of citizens of rich nations which make enormous profits by pillaging colonies and weak nations. Another such perversion, on the other hand, is the equally wide and international movement of the 'Centre', etc."

It is necessary to add the words "in an imperialist war" for greater accuracy. "Defence of the fatherland" is nothing but a slogan to justify the war, the recognition of it as legitimate and just. There are different kinds of wars. There may also be revolutionary wars. We must therefore say precisely what we mean: imperialist war. This is of course implied, but to avoid misinterpretation, it must not be implied, but stated directly and clearly.


From the general or theoretical part of the programme we shall now turn to the minimum programme. Here we at once encounter the ostensibly "very radical" but really very groundless proposal of Comrades N. Bukharin and V. Smirnov to discard the minimum programme in toto. The division into maximum and minimum programmes is out of date, they claim. Since we speak of a transition to socialism there is no need for it. No minimum programmes; our programme must indicate measures for the transition to socialism.

Such is the proposal of these two comrades. For some reason, they have not ventured to offer their own draft (although, since the revision of the Party programme was on the agenda of the next congress of the Party, they were really under an obligation to work out a draft). It is possible that the authors of the ostensibly "radical" proposal have themselves halted in indecision. . . . Be that as it may, their opinion should be examined.

War and economic ruin have forced all countries to advance from monopoly capitalism to state monopoly capitalism. This is the objective state of affairs. In a revolutionary situation, during a revolution, however, state monopoly capitalism is directly transformed into socialism. During a revolution it is impossible to move forward without moving towards socialism—this is the objective state of affairs created by war and revolution. It was taken cognisance of by our April Conference, which put forward the slogans, "a Soviet Republic" (the political form of the dictatorship of the proletariat), and the nationalisation of banks and syndicates (a basic measure in the transition towards socialism). Up to this point all the Bolsheviks unanimously agree. But Comrades Smirnov and Bukharin want to go farther, they want to discard the minimum programme in toto. This is contrary to the wise counsel of the wise proverb, "Do not boast when riding to battle; boast when you return from it".

We are riding to battle, that is, we are fighting for the conquest of political power by our Party. This power would be the dictatorship of the proletariat and the poor peasants. In taking power, we are not at all afraid of stepping beyond the bounds of the bourgeois system; on the contrary, we declare clearly, directly, definitely, and openly that we shall step beyond those bounds, that we shall fearlessly march towards socialism, that our road shall be through a Soviet Republic, through nationalisation of banks and syndicates, through workers' control, through universal labour conscription, through nationalisation of the land, confiscation of the landowners' livestock and implements, etc. In this sense we drafted our programme of measures for transition to socialism.

But we must not boast when riding to battle, we must not discard the minimum programme, for this would be an empty boast: we do not wish to "demand anything from the bourgeoisie", we wish to realise everything ourselves, we do not wish to work on petty details within the framework of bourgeois society.

This would be an empty boast, because first of all we must win power, which has not yet been done. We must first carry out the measures of transition to socialism, we must continue our revolution until the world socialist revolution is victorious, and only then, "returning from battle ", may we discard the minimum programme as of no further use.

Is it possible to guarantee now that the minimum programme will not be needed any more? Of course not, for the simple reason that we have not yet won power, that socialism has not yet been realised, and that we have not achieved even the beginning of the world socialist revolution.

We must firmly, courageously, and without hesitation advance towards our goal, but it is ludicrous to declare that we have reached it when we definitely have not. Discarding the minimum programme would be equivalent to declaring, to announcing (to bragging, in simple language) that we have already won.

No, dear comrades, we have not yet won.

We do not know whether our victory will come tomorrow or a little later. (I personally am inclined to think that it will be tomorrow—I am writing this on October 6, 1917—and that there may be a delay in our seizure of power; still, tomorrow is tomorrow and not today.) We do not know how soon after our victory revolution will sweep the West. We do not know whether or not our victory will be followed by temporary periods of reaction and the victory of the counter-revolution—there is nothing impossible in that—and therefore, after our victory, we shall build a "triple line of trenches" against such a contingency.

We do not know and cannot know anything of this. No one is in a position to know. It is therefore ridiculous to discard the minimum programme, which is indispensable while we still live within the framework of bourgeois society, while we have not yet destroyed that framework, not yet realised the basic prerequisites for a transition to socialism, not yet smashed the enemy (the bourgeoisie), and even if we have smashed them we have not yet annihilated them. All this will come, and perhaps much sooner than many people think (I personally think that it will begin tomorrow), but it has not yet come.

Take the minimum programme in the political sphere. This programme is limited to the bourgeois republic. We add that we do not confine ourselves to its limits, we start immediately upon a struggle for a higher type of republic, a Soviet Republic. This we must do. With unshakable courage and determination we must advance towards the new republic and in this way we shall reach our goal, of that I am sure. But the minimum programme should under no circumstances be discarded, for, first of all, there is as yet no Soviet Republic; secondly, "attempts at restoration" are not out of the question, and they will first have to be experienced and vanquished; thirdly, during the transition from the old to the new there may be temporary "combined types" (as Rabochy Put correctly pointed out a day or two ago)—for instance, a Soviet Republic together with a Constituent Assembly. Let us first get over all that—then it will be time to discard the minimum programme.

The same in the economic sphere. We all agree that the fear of marching towards socialism is the most contemptible treason to the cause of the proletariat. We all agree that the most important of the first steps to be taken must be such measures as the nationalisation of banks and syndicates. Let us first realise this and other similar measures, and then we shall see. Then we shall be able to see better, for practical experience, which is worth a million times more than the best of programmes, will considerably widen our horizon. It is possible, and even probable, nay, indubitable, that without transitional "combined types" the change will not take place. We shall not, for instance, be able to nationalise petty enterprises with one or two hired labourers at short notice or subject them to real workers' control. Their role may be insignificant, they may be bound hand and foot by the nationalisation of banks and trusts, but so long as there are even odds and ends of bourgeois relations, why abandon the minimum programme? As Marxists, advancing boldly to the world's greatest revolution, but at the same time taking a sober view of the facts, we have no right to abandon the minimum programme.

By abandoning it we should prove that we have lost our heads before we have won. And we must not lose our heads either before our victory, at the time of victory, or after it; for if we lose our heads, we lose everything.

Comrade Bukharin actually proposed nothing concrete; he only repeated what had been said long before concerning the nationalisation of banks and syndicates. Comrade Smirnov in his article offered a very interesting and instructive series of tentative reforms that may be reduced to the regulation of production and consumption of commodities. In a general way all this is contained in my draft, followed by an "etc.". To go further, to venture into a discussion of separate and concrete measures, seems to me inexpedient. Many things will become clearer afterthe basic measures of the new type have been carried out, after the nationalisation of banks, after the introduction of workers' control; experience will tell us a lot more, for it will be the experience of millions, the experience in building a new system of economy with the conscious participation of millions. It stands to reason that to indicate the new, develop plans, evaluate them, analyse the local and partial experiences of various Soviets or supply committees, etc., is all very useful work to be done in articles, pamphlets and speeches. But to inject into the programme an overdose of detail is premature and may become even harmful by tying our hands with petty matters. Our hands must be free so that we may build the new with greater vigour, once we have fully entered upon the new path.


Comrade Bukharin's article touches upon another question worthy of consideration.

"The question of the revision of our Party programme should be bound up with the question of working out a single programme for the international party of the proletariat."

This is not very clearly expressed. If we take it to mean that the author advises us not to accept a new programme until a single international programme, a programme of the Third International, has been drawn up, then we have to object to this opinion most decisively. To postpone it on this account (I presume that there are no other reasons for delay; no one, for instance, demanded a postponement on account of inadequate preparation of our Party material for the revision) would be equivalent to our delaying the foundation of the Third International. The foundation of the Third International ought not of course to be understood formally. Not until the proletarian revolution has triumphed in at least one country, or until the war has come to an end, may we hope for a speedy and successful advance in convening a great conference of internationalist revolutionary parties of various countries; or for their consent to a formal adoption of a new programme. In the meantime we must advance our cause on the initiative of those parties which are now in a more favourable position than the others and can take the first step—not viewing it, of course, as the last step, not necessarily opposing their programme to other "Left" (i.e., internationalist revolutionary) programmes, but working directly towards the formulation of a general programme. Outside of Russia there is at present no other country in the world where there is comparative freedom for internationalists to meet, and where there are as many comrades well informed on subjects concerning international movements and programmes as there are in our Party. This is why we must take the initiative upon ourselves. This is our immediate duty as internationalists.

Apparently Comrade Bukharin views this matter in exactly the same way. At the beginning of the article he says that "the Party Congress which has just been concluded [it was written in August] recognised the necessity of revising the programme" and that "a special congress will be called for this purpose". We conclude from this that Comrade Bukharin has no objections to the adoption of a new programme at that congress.

If so, then we have perfect unanimity on this question. Hardly anyone would be against the proposition that our congress, upon adopting a new programme, express a desire to draw up a single general programme for the Third International, and take certain steps in that direction—hasten the conference of the Lefts, publish a collection of articles in several languages, set up a committee for the purpose of collecting material on what has been done in other countries in order to "feel the way" (according to Comrade Bukharin's correct expression) for a new programme (the "Tribunists" in Holland, the Lefts in Germany. The Socialist Propaganda League in America has already been mentioned by Comrade Bukharin; we may also mention the American Socialist Labour Party and its demand that "the political state give way to industrial democracy").

Comrade Bukharin has pointed out a flaw in my draft which I must acknowledge to be absolutely correct. He cites a passage in the draft (page 23 of the pamphlet[See present edition, Vol. 24, p. 471. —Ed.]) where I discuss the present situation in Russia, the capitalist Provisional Government, etc. Comrade Bukharin is right in criticising this passage and saying that it should be transferred to the resolution on tactics or to the platform. I therefore propose either to leave out the last paragraph on page 23 altogether, or to put it as follows:

"Striving for a political system which would best ensure economic progress and the rights of the people in general, and, in particular, make the transition to socialism as painless as possible, the party of the proletariat cannot rest content", etc.

Finally, I must answer one question raised by a few comrades, but as far as I know, not yet discussed in the press. This is the question of Clause 9 of our political programme on the right of nations to self-determination. This clause consists of two parts: the first part is a new statement on the right to self-determination; the second contains not a demand but a declaration. I am asked whether a declaration is in place here. Generally speaking, there is no place for declarations in a programme, but I think an exception to the rule is necessary here. Instead of the word self-determination, which has given rise to numerous misinterpretations, I propose the perfectly precise concept: "the right to free secession". After six months' experience of the 1917 Revolution, it is hardly possible to dispute that the party of the revolutionary proletariat of Russia, the party which uses the Great Russian language, is obliged to recognise the right to secede. When we win power, we shall immediately and unconditionally recognise this right for Finland, the Ukraine, Armenia, and any other nationality oppressed by tsarism (and the Great-Russian bourgeoisie). On the other hand, we do not at all favour secession. We want as vast a state, as close an alliance of the greatest possible number of nations who are neighbours of the Great Russians; we desire this in the interests of democracy and socialism, to attract into the struggle of the proletariat the greatest possible number of the working people of different nations. We desire proletarian revolutionary unity, unification, and not secession. We desire revolutionary unification; that is why our slogan does not call for unification of all states in general, for the social revolution demands the unification only of those states which have gone over or are going over to socialism, colonies which are gaining their freedom, etc. We want free unification; that is why we must recognise the right to secede (without freedom to secede, unification cannot be called free). The more so must we recognise the right of secession, because tsarism and the Great-Russian bourgeoisie have by their oppression left great bitterness and distrust of the Great Russians generally in the hearts of the neighbouring nations, and these must be eradicated by deeds and not by words.

But we want unification, and this must be stated; it is so important to state it in the programme of a party of a heterogeneous state that it is necessary to abandon custom and to incorporate a declaration. We want the republic of the Russian (I am even inclined to say Great-Russian, for this is more correct) people to attract other nations to it. But how? Not by violence, but solely by voluntary agreement. Otherwise the unity and the brotherly ties of the workers of all countries are broken. Unlike the bourgeois democrats, we call for the brotherhood of workers of all nationalities, and not the brotherhood of nations, for we do not trust the bourgeoisie of any country, we regard them as our enemies.

This is why we should here allow an exception to the rule by inserting in Clause 9 a declaration of principles.


The foregoing pages were written before No. 31 of Rabochy Put appeared with Comrade Y. Larin's article "The Labour Demands of Our Programme". We welcome this article as the beginning of the discussion of the various draft programmes by our Central Organ. Comrade Larin dwells especially on that section of the programme which I had no occasion to work upon, and the draft for which is in the possession of the editors of the "Subsection on Labour Protection", the subsection was formed at the Conference of April 24-29, 1917. Comrade Larin proposes a number of additions which seem to me quite acceptable but which, I am sorry to say, are not always quite accurately expressed.

One point seems to me to have been ineptly formulated by Comrade Larin: "The correct [?] distribution of the labour force on the basis [?] of democratic [?] self-government by the workers in deciding how to employ [?] their persons [?]". In my opinion this is worse than the formulation of the subsection: "The labour exchanges must be proletarian class organisations", etc. (see Materials, p. 15). Comrade Larin, moreover, should have gone into the problem of a minimum wage much more thoroughly. He should have formulated his proposition with greater exactness, and should have related it to the history of the views of Marx and Marxism on this subject.

Furthermore, Comrade Larin thinks that the political and agrarian parts of the programme should have been "more carefully edited". We do hope that our Party press forthwith begins to discuss the question of editing this or that demand, without waiting for the congress, since, firstly, we shall not have a well prepared congress, and secondly, everyone who has had occasion to work on programmes and resolutions knows how often a careful editing of a certain point discloses and eliminates vagueness and disagreements of principle.

Finally, concerning the financial and economic part of the programme, Comrade Larin writes that "it is almost a blank, no mention is made, even of the annulment of war loans and the state debts contracted by tsarism [only tsarism?] or of the struggle against the fiscal utilisation of state monopolies, etc.". It is extremely desirable for Comrade Larin not to postpone his practical proposals in anticipation of the congress. He should bring them up immediately, or we shall not be well prepared for the congress. On the question of the annulment of state debts (and of course, not of tsarism alone, but also of the bourgeoisie) we must give considerable thought to the question of small bondholders. As to the question about "the struggle against the fiscal utilisation of state monopolies", we must see how things stand with the monopoly production of articles of luxury, and what connection the proposed point has with programme demands for the abolition of all indirect taxes.

I repeat: in order to prepare our programme seriously, to ensure the actual co-operation of the entire Party, all those interested must immediately get busy and publish their suggestions as well as precise drafts of points already edited and which contain additions and amendments.