V. I. Lenin

Extraordinary Seventh Congress of the R.C.P.(B.)

MARCH 6-8, 1918

Section Fifteen


Speech Against Bukharin’s Amendment To The Resolution On The Party Programme[38]
March 8 (Evening)


I cannot agree at all to Comrade Bukharin’s amendment. The Programme characterises imperialism and the era of social revolution that has begun. The era of social revolution has begun—this has been established with absolute accuracy. What, however, does Comrade Bukharin want?—That we should give a description of socialist society in its developed form, i.e., communism. Here he is inaccurate. At present we certainly uphold the state and to say we should give a description of socialism in its developed form where the state will cease to exist—you couldn’t do anything about that except say that then the principle would be realised: from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs. But this is still a long way off, and to say that means not saying anything except that we have no firm ground to go on. We shall arrive there in the long run if we reach socialism. It is enough for us to set to work on what we have said. If we were to do this it would be a tremendous historic achievement. We cannot give a description of socialism; what socialism will be like when its completed forms are arrived at—this we do not know, we cannot tell. To say that the era of social revolution has begun, that we have done this or that, and that we want to do this or that—this we do know and will say, and it will show the European workers that we do not in any way exaggerate, so to speak, our strength; this is what we have begun to do and what we intend to do. But as to knowing at the present time what social- ism will look like when completed—this we do not know. Theoretically, in theoretical works, in articles, speeches and lectures, we shall expound the view that the struggle against the anarchists is being waged by Kautsky incorrectly, but we cannot put this in the Programme because we do not yet have the data for a description of socialism. The bricks of which socialism will be composed have not yet been made. We cannot say anything further, and we should be as cautious and accurate as possible. In that and only in that will lie our Programme’s power of attraction. But if we advance the slightest claim to something that we cannot give, the power of our Programme will be weakened. It will be suspected that our Programme is only a fantasy. The Programme describes what we have begun to do and the succeeding steps that we wish to take. We are not in a position to give a description of socialism and it was incorrect that this task was formulated.


Since the formulation was not in writing, misunderstanding, of course, is possible. But Comrade Bukharin did not convince me. The name of our Party indicates sufficiently clearly that we are advancing towards complete communism, thus we are putting forward such abstract propositions as that each of us will work according to his ability and will receive according to his needs, without any military control and compulsion. It is premature to speak about this now. Just when will the state wither away? We shall have managed to convene more than two congresses before the time comes to say: see how our state is withering away. It is too early for that. To proclaim the withering away of the state prematurely would distort the historical perspective.


[38] Bukharin’s proposal, which the Congress rejected, was that the theoretical part of the Programme should include an extensive description of socialism and communism and an indication that the state would wither away in the very near future. His proposition on the withering away of the state was connected with his theoretically incorrect and semi-anarchistic attitude concerning the problem of the state which Lenin had pointed out as early as 1916. Criticising Bukharin’s mistaken thesis that the Social-Democrats should stress their fundamental hostility to the state in general, Lenin wrote that Bukharin had “absolutely wrongly” defined the difference between Marxists and anarchists over the question of the state (see present edition, Vol. 35, “To N. Bukharin). Lenin also criticised Bukharin’s theory of the state in his notes on Bukharin’s articles on the state and on Bukharin’s book The Economics of the Transitional Period (see V. I. Lenin, “Notes on the Articles by N. I. Bukharin on the State”, Russ. ed., Moscow, 1933, and Lenin Miscellany XI, pp. 345-403). Posing the question of the withering away of the state as a short-term aim, soon after the victory of the October Revolution, meant, in effect, weakening the new state based on the dictatorship of the proletariat.