V. I. Lenin

Eighth Congress of the R.C.P.(B.) March 18-23, 1919


Report On The Party Programme

March 19

(Applause.) Comrades, according to the division of subjects agreed on between Comrade Bukharin and myself, it is my task to explain the point of view of the commission on a number of concrete and most disputed points, or points which interest the Party most at the present time.

I shall begin by dealing briefly with the points which Comrade Bukharin touched on at the end of his report as points of dispute among us in the commission; The first relates to the structure of the preamble to the programme. In my opinion, Comrade Bukharin did not quite correctly explain here the reason the majority on the commission rejected all attempts to draw up the programme in such a way that everything relating to the old capitalism would be deleted. By the way Comrade Bukharin spoke he sometimes seemed to imply that the majority on the commission was apprehensive of what might be said about this, apprehensive that they would be accused of insufficient respect for the past. There can be no doubt that when the position of the majority is presented in this way it seems rather ridiculous. But this is very far from the truth. The majority rejected these attempts because they would be wrong. They would not correspond to the real state of affairs. Pure imperialism, without the fundamental basis of capitalism, has never existed, does not exist anywhere, and never will exist. This is an incorrect generalisation of everything that was said of the syndicates, cartels, trusts and finance capitalism, when finance capitalism was depicted as though it had none of the foundations of the old capitalism under it.

That is wrong. It would be particularly wrong for the era of the imperialist war and for the era following the imperialist war. Engels in his time, in one of his reflections on the future war, wrote that it would involve much more severe devastation than that caused by the Thirty Years’ War; that in a large degree mankind would be reduced to savagery, that our artificial apparatus of trade and industry would collapse.[10] At the beginning of the war the traitor socialists and opportunists boasted of the tenacity of capitalism and derided the “fanatics or semi-anarchists”, as they called us. “Look,” they said, “these predictions have not come true. Events have shown that they were true only of a very small number of countries and for a very short period of time!” And now, not only in Russia and not only in Germany, but even in the victor countries, a gigantic collapse of modern capitalism is beginning, a collapse, so gigantic that it frequently removes this artificial apparatus and restores the old capitalism.

When Comrade Bukharin stated that an attempt might be made to present an integral picture of the collapse of capitalism and imperialism, we objected to it in the commission, and I must object to it here. Just try it, and you will see that you will not succeed. Comrade Bukharin made one such attempt in the commission, and himself gave it up. I am absolutely convinced that if anybody could do this, it is Comrade Bukharin, who has studied this question very extensively and thoroughly. I assert that such an attempt cannot be successful, because the task is a wrong one. We in Russia are now experiencing the consequences of the imperialist war and the beginning of the dictatorship of the proletariat. At the same time, in a number of the regions of Russia, cut off from each other more than formerly, we frequently see a regeneration of capitalism and the development of its early stage. That is something we cannot escape. If the programme were to be written in the way Comrade Bukharin wanted, it would be a wrong programme. At best, it would be a reproduction of all the best that has been said of finance capitalism and imperialism, but it would not reproduce reality, precisely because this reality is not integral. A programme made up of heterogeneous parts is inelegant (but that, of course, is not important), but any other programme would simply be incorrect. However unpleasant it may be, whatever it may lack in proportion, we shall be unable for a long time to escape this heterogeneity, this necessity of constructing from different materials. When we do escape it, we shall create another programme. But then we shall already be living in a socialist society. It would be ridiculous to pretend that things will be then what they are now.

We are living at a time when a number of the most elementary and fundamental manifestations of capitalism have been revived. Take, for instance, the collapse of transport, which we are experiencing so well, or rather so badly, in our own case. This same thing is taking place in other countries, too, even in the victor countries. And what does the collapse of transport mean under the imperialist system? A return to the most primitive forms of commodity production. We know very well what our profiteers or bagmen are. This latter word, I think, has up to now been unknown to foreigners. And now? Speak to the comrades who have arrived for the Congress of the Third International. It turns out that similar words are beginning to appear in both Germany and Switzerland. And this is a category you cannot fit into any dictatorship of the proletariat; you have to return to the very dawn of capitalist society and commodity production.

To escape from this sad reality by creating a smooth and integral programme is to escape into something ethereal that is not of this world, to write a wrong programme. And it is by no means reverence for the past, as Comrade Bukharin politely hinted, which induced us here to insert passages from the old programme. What appeared to be implied was this: the programme was written in 1903 with the participation of Lenin; the programme is undoubtedly a bad one; but since old people love most of all to recall the past, in a new era a new programme has been drawn up which, out of reverence for the past, repeats the old programme. If it were so, such cranks ought to be laughed at. I assert that it is not so. The capitalism described in 1903 remains in existence in 1919 in the Soviet proletarian republic just because of the disintegration of imperialism, because of its collapse. Capitalism of this kind can be found, for instance, in Samara and in Vyatka gubernias, which are not very far from Moscow. In a period when civil war is rending the country, we shall not soon emerge from this situation, from this profiteering. That is why any other structure of the programme would be incorrect. We must state what actually exists; the programme must contain what is absolutely irrefutable, what has been established in fact. Only then will it be a Marxist programme.

Theoretically, Comrade Bukharin understands this perfectly and says that the programme must be concrete. But it is one thing to understand and another to act upon this understanding. Comrade Bukharin’s concreteness is a bookish description of finance capitalism. In reality we have heterogeneous phenomena to deal with. In every agricultural gubernia there is free competition side by side with monopoly industry. Nowhere in the world has monopoly capitalism existed in a whole series of branches without free competition, nor will it exist. To write of such a system is to write of a system which is false and removed from reality. If Marx said of manufacture that it was a superstructure on mass small production,[11] imperialism and finance capitalism are a superstructure on the old capitalism. If its top is destroyed, the old capitalism is exposed. To maintain that there is such a thing as integral imperialism without the old capitalism is merely making the wish father to the thought.

This is a natural mistake, one very easily committed. And if we had an integral imperialism before us, which had entirely altered capitalism, our task would have been a hundred thousand times easier. It would have resulted in a system in which everything would be subordinated to finance capital alone. It would then only have remained to remove the top and to transfer what remained to the proletariat. That would have been extremely agreeable, but it is not so in reality. In reality the development is such that we have to act in an entirely different way. Imperialism is a superstructure on capitalism. When it collapses, we find ourselves dealing with the destruction of the top and the exposure of the foundation. That is why our programme, if it is to be a correct one, must state what actually exists. There is the old capitalism, which in a number of branches has grown to imperialism. Its tendencies are exclusively imperialist. Fundamental questions can be examined only from the point of view of imperialism. There is not a single major question of home or foreign policy which could be settled in any way except from the point of view of this tendency. This is not what the programme now speaks about. In reality, there exists a vast subsoil of the old capitalism. There is the superstructure of imperialism, which led to the war, and from this war followed the beginnings of the dictatorship of the proletariat. This is a phase you cannot escape. This fact is characteristic of the very rate of development of the proletarian revolution throughout the world, and will remain a fact for many years to come.

West-European revolutions will perhaps proceed more smoothly; nevertheless, very many years will be required for the reorganisation of the whole world, for the reorganisation of the majority of the countries. And this means that during the present transition period, we cannot escape this mosaic reality. We cannot cast aside this patchwork reality, however inelegant it may be; we cannot cast away one bit of it. If the programme were drawn up otherwise than it has been drawn up, it would be a wrong programme.

We say that we have arrived at the dictatorship. But we must know how we arrived at it. The past keeps fast hold of us, grasps us with a thousand tentacles, and does not allow us to take a single forward step, or compels us to take these steps badly in the way we are taking them. And we say that for the situation we are arriving at to be understood, it must be stated how we proceeded and what led us to the socialist revolution. We were led to it by imperialism, by capitalism in its early commodity production forms. All this must be understood, because it is only by reckoning with reality that we can solve such problems as, let us say, our attitude towards the middle peasants. And how is it, indeed, that there is such a category as a middle peasant in the era of purely imperialist capitalism? It did not exist even in countries that were simply capitalist. If we are to solve the problem of our attitude towards this almost medieval phenomenon (the middle peasants) purely from the point of view of imperialism and the dictatorship of the proletariat, we shall be absolutely unable to make ends meet, and we shall land in many difficulties. But if we are to change our attitude towards the middle peasant—then also have the goodness to say in the theoretical part where he came from and what he is. He is a small commodity producer. And this is the ABC of capitalism, of which we must speak, because we have not yet grown out of it. To brush this aside and say, “Why should we study the ABC when we have studied finance capitalism?” would be highly frivolous.

I have to say the same thing about the national question. Here too the wish is father to the thought with Comrade Bukharin. He says that we must not recognise the right of nations to self-determination. A nation means the bourgeoisie together with the proletariat. And are we, the proletarians, to recognise the right to self-determination of the despised bourgeoisie? That is absolutely incompatible! Pardon me, it is compatible with what actually exists. If you eliminate this, the result will be sheer fantasy. You refer to the process of differentiation which is taking place within the nations, the process of separation of the proletariat from the bourgeoisie. But let us see how this differentiation will proceed.

Take, for instance, Germany, the model of an advanced capitalist country whose organisation of capitalism, finance capitalism, was superior to that of America. She was inferior in many other respects, in technical development and production and in the political sphere, but in respect of the organisation of finance capitalism, in respect of the transformation of monopoly capitalism into state monopoly capitalism, Germany was superior to America. She is a model, it would seem. But what is taking place there? Has the German proletariat become differentiated from the bourgeoisie? No! It was reported that the majority of the workers are opposed to Scheidemann in only a few of the large towns. But how did this come about? It was owing to the alliance between the Spartacists and the thrice-accursed German Menshevik-Independents, who make a muddle of everything and want to wed the system of workers’ councils to a Constituent Assembly! And this is what is taking place in that very Germany! And she, mark you, is an advanced country.

Comrade Bukharin says, “Why do we need the right of nations to self-determination?” I must repeat what I said opposing him in the summer of 1917, when he proposed to delete the minimum programme and to leave only the maximum programme.[12] I then retorted, “Don’t halloo until you’re out of the wood.” When we have conquered power, and even then only after waiting a while, we shall do this.[13] We have conquered power, we have waited a while, and now I am willing to do it. We have gone directly into socialist construction, we have beaten off the first assault that threatened us—now it will be in place. The same applies to the right of nations to self-determination. “I want to recognise only the right of the working classes to self-determination,” says Comrade Bukharin. That is to say, you want to recognise something that has not been achieved in a single country except Russia. That is ridiculous.

Look at Finland; she is a democratic country, more developed, more cultured than we are. In Finland a process of separation, of the differentiation of the proletariat is taking a specific course, far more painful than was the case with us. The Finns have experienced the dictatorship of Germany; they are now experiencing the dictatorship of the Allied powers. But thanks to the fact that we have recognised the right of nations to self-determination, the process of differentiation has been facilitated there. I very well recall the scene when, at Smolny, I handed the act to Svinhufvud[14] which in Russian means “pighead”—the representative of the Finnish bourgeoisie, who played the part of a hangman. He amiably shook my hand, we exchanged compliments. How unpleasant that was! But it had to be done, because at that time the bourgeoisie were deceiving the people, were deceiving the working people by alleging that the Muscovites, the chauvinists, the Great Russians, wanted to crush the Finns. It had to be done.

Yesterday, was it not necessary to do the same thing in relation to the Bashkirian Republic?[15] When Comrade Bukharin said, “We can recognise this right in some cases”, I even wrote down that he had included in the list the Hottentots, the Bushmen and the Indians. Hearing this enumeration, I thought, how is it that Comrade Bukharin has forgotten a small tribe, the Bashkirs? There are no Bushmen in Russia, nor have I heard that the Hottentots have laid claim to an autonomous republic, but we have Bashkirs, Kirghiz and a number of other peoples, and to these we cannot deny recognition. We cannot deny it to a single one of the peoples living within the boundaries of the former Russian Empire. Let us even assume that the Bashkirs have overthrown the exploiters and we have helped them to do so. This is possible only when a revolution has fully matured, and it must be done cautiously, so as not to retard by one’s interference that very process of the differentiation of the proletariat which we ought to expedite. What, then, can we do in relation to such peoples as the Kirghiz, the Uzbeks, the Tajiks, the Turkmen, who to this day are under the influence of their mullahs? Here, in Russia, the population, having had a long experience of the priests, helped us to overthrow them. But you know how badly the decree on civil marriage is still being put into effect. Can we approach these peoples and tell them that we shall overthrow their exploiters? We cannot do this, because they are entirely subordinated to their mullahs. In such cases we have to wait until the given nation develops, until the differentiation of the proletariat from the bourgeois elements, which is inevitable, has taken place.

Comrade Bukharin does not want to wait. He is possessed by impatience: “Why should we? When we have ourselves overthrown the bourgeoisie, proclaimed Soviet power and the dictatorship of the proletariat, why should we act thus?” This has the effect of a rousing appeal, it contains an indication of our path, but if we were to proclaim only this in our programme, it would not be a programme, but a proclamation. We may proclaim Soviet power, and the dictatorship of the proletariat, and express the contempt for the bourgeoisie they deserve a thousand times over, but in the programme we must write just what actually exists with the greatest precision. And then our programme will be incontrovertible.

We hold a strictly class standpoint. What we are writing in the programme is a recognition of what has actually taken place since the time we wrote of the self-determination of nations in general. At that time there were still no proletarian republics. It was when they appeared, and only as they appeared, that we were able to write what is written here: “A federation of states organised after the Soviet type.” The Soviet type is not yet Soviets as they exist in Russia, but the Soviet type is becoming international. And this is all we can say. To go farther, one step farther, one hair’s breadth farther, would be wrong, and therefore unsuitable for a programme.

We say that account must be taken of the stage reached by the given nation on its way from medievalism to bourgeois democracy, and from bourgeois democracy to proletarian democracy. That is absolutely correct. All nations have the right to self-determination—there is no need to speak specially of the Hottentots and the Bushmen. The vast majority, most likely nine-tenths of the population of the earth, perhaps 95 per cent, come under this description, since all countries are on the way from medievalism to bourgeois democracy or from bourgeois democracy to proletarian democracy. This is an absolutely inevitable course. More cannot be said, because it would be wrong, because it would not be what actually exists. To reject the self-determination of nations and insert the self-determination of the working people would be absolutely wrong, because this manner of settling the question does not reckon with the difficulties, with the zigzag course taken by differentiation within nations. In Germany it is not proceeding in the same way as in our country—in certain respects more rapidly, and in other respects in a slower and more sanguinary way. Not a single party in our country accepted so monstrous an idea as a combination of workers’ councils and a Constituent Assembly. And yet we have to live side by side with these nations. Now Scheidemann’s party is already saying that we want to conquer Germany. That is of course ridiculous, nonsensical. But the bourgeoisie have their own interests and their own press, which is shouting this to the whole world in hundreds of millions of copies; Wilson, too, is supporting this in his own interests. The Bolsheviks, they declare, have a large army, and they want, by means of conquest, to implant their Bolshevism in Germany. The best people in Germany—the Spartacists—told us that the German workers are being incited against the Communists; look, they are told, how bad things are with the Bolsheviks! And we cannot say that things with us are very good. And so our enemies in Germany influence the people with the argument that the proletarian revolution in Germany would result in the same disorders as in Russia. Our disorders are a protracted illness. We are contending with desperate difficulties in creating the proletarian dictatorship in our country. As long as the bourgeoisie, or the petty bourgeoisie, or even part of the German workers, are under the influence of this bug bear—“the Bolsheviks want to establish their system by force”—so long will the formula “the self-determination of the working people” not help matters. We must arrange things so that the German traitor-socialists will not be able to say that the Bolsheviks are trying to impose their universal system, which, as it were, can be brought into Berlin on Red Army bayonets. And this is what may happen if the principle of the self-determination of nations is denied.

Our programme must not speak of the self-determination of the working people, because that would be wrong. It must speak of what actually exists. Since nations are at different stages on the road from medievalism to bourgeois democracy and from bourgeois democracy to proletarian democracy, this thesis of our programme is absolutely correct. With us there have been very many zigzags on this road. Every nation must obtain the right to self-determination, and that will make the self-determination of the working people easier. In Finland the process of separation of the proletariat from the bourgeoisie is remarkably clear, forceful and deep. At any rate, things will not proceed there as they do in our country. If we were to declare that we do not recognise any Finnish nation, but only the working people, that would be sheer nonsense. We cannot refuse to recognise what actually exists; it will itself compel us to recognise it. The demarcation between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie is proceeding in different countries in their own specific ways. Here we must act with utmost caution. We must be particularly cautious with regard to the various nations, for there is nothing worse than lack of confidence on the part of a nation. Self-determination of the proletariat is proceeding among the Poles. Here are the latest figures on the composition of the Warsaw Soviet of Workers’ Deputies. [16] Polish traitor-socialists—333, Communists—297. This shows that, according to our revolutionary calendar, October in that country is not very far off. It is somewhere about August or September 1917. But, firstly, no decree has yet been issued stating that all countries must live according to the Bolshevik revolutionary calendar; and even if it were issued, it would not be observed. And, secondly, the situation at present is such that the majority of the Polish workers, who are more advanced than ours and more cultured, share the standpoint of social-defencism, social-patriotism. We must wait. We cannot speak here of the self-determination of the working people. We must carry on propaganda in behalf of this differentiation. This is what we are doing, but there is not the slightest shadow of doubt that we must recognise the self-determination of the Polish nation now. That is clear. The Polish proletarian movement is taking the same course as ours, towards the dictatorship of the proletariat, but not in the same way as in Russia. And there the workers are being intimidated by statements to the effect that the Muscovites, the Great Russians, who have always oppressed the Poles, want to carry their Great-Russian chauvinism into Poland in the guise of communism. Communism cannot be imposed by force. When I said to one of the best comrades among the Polish Communists, “You will do it in a different way”, he replied, “No, we shall do the same thing, but better than you.” To such an argument I had absolutely no objections. They must be given the opportunity of fulfilling a modest wish—to create a better Soviet power than ours. We cannot help reckoning with the fact that things there are proceeding in rather a peculiar way, and we cannot say: “Down with the right of nations to self-determination! We grant the right of self-determination only to the working people.” This self-determination proceeds in a very complex and difficult way. It exists nowhere but in Russia, and, while foreseeing every stage of development in other countries, we must decree nothing from Moscow. That is why this proposal is unacceptable in principle.

I now pass to the other points which I am to deal with in accordance with the plan we have drawn up. I have given the first place to the question of small proprietors and middle peasants. In this respect, Clause 47 states:

“With regard to the middle peasants, the policy of the Russian Communist Party is to draw them into the work of socialist construction gradually and systematically. The Party sets itself the task of separating them from the kulaks, of winning them to the side of the working class by carefully attending to their needs, by combating their backwardness with ideological weapons and under no circumstances with measures of suppression, and by striving in all cases where their vital interests are concerned to come to practical agreements with them, making concessions to them in determining the methods of carrying out socialist reforms.”

It seems to me that here we are formulating what the founders of socialism have frequently said regarding the middle peasants. The only defect of this clause is that it is not sufficiently concrete. We could hardly give more in a programme But it is not only questions of programme we must discuss at the Congress, and we must give profound, thrice profound consideration to the question of the middle peasants. We have information to the effect that in the revolts which have occurred in some places, a general plan is clearly discernible, and that this plan is obviously connected with the military plan of the whiteguards, who have decided on a general offensive in March and on the organisation of a number of revolts. In the presidium of the Congress there is a draft of an appeal in the name of the Congress, which will be reported to you. [17] These revolts show as clear as can be that the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries and a part of the Mensheviks—in Bryansk it was the Mensheviks who worked to provoke the revolt—are acting as actual agents of the whiteguards. A general offensive of the whiteguards, revolts in the villages, the interruption of railway traffic—perhaps it will be possible to overthrow the Bolsheviks in this way? Here the role of the middle peasants stands out especially clearly, forcibly and insistently. At the Congress we must not only lay particular stress on our accommodating attitude towards the middle peasants, but also think over a number of measures, as concrete as possible, which will directly give at least something to the middle peasants. These measures are absolutely essential for self-preservation and for the struggle against all our enemies; they know that the middle peasant vacillates between us and them and they are endeavouring to win him away from us. Our position is now such that we possess vast reserves. We know that both the Polish and the Hungarian revolutions are growing, and very rapidly. These revolutions will furnish us with proletarian reserves, will ease our situation and will to a very large ex- tent reinforce our proletarian base, which is weak. This may happen in the next few months, but we do not know just when. You know that an acute moment has now come and therefore the question of the middle peasants now assumes tremendous practical importance.

Further, I should like to dwell on the question of co-operation—that is Clause 48 of our programme. To a certain extent this clause has become obsolete. When we were drafting it in the commission, co-operatives existed in our country, but there were no consumers’ communes; a few days later, however, the decree on the merging of all forms of co-operatives into a single consumers’ commune was issued. I do not know whether this decree has been published and whether the majority of those here present are acquainted with it. If not, it will be published tomorrow or the day after. In this respect, this clause is already out of date, but it nevertheless appears to me that it is necessary, for we all know very well that it is a pretty long way from decrees to fulfilment. We have been toiling and moiling over the co-operatives since April 1918, and although we have achieved considerable success, it is not yet a decisive success. We have at times succeeded in organising the population in the co-operatives to such an extent that in many of the uyezds 98 per cent of the rural population are already so organised. But these co-operatives, which existed in capitalist society, are saturated with the spirit of bourgeois society, and are headed by Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries, by bourgeois experts. We have not yet been able to establish our authority over them, and here our task remains unaccomplished. Our decree is a step forward in that it creates consumers’ communes; it orders that all forms of co-operation all over Russia shall be merged. But this decree, too, even if we carry it into effect entirely, leaves the autonomous sections of workers’ co-operatives within the future consumers’ communes, because representatives of the workers’ co-operatives who have a practical knowledge of the matter told us, and proved it, that the workers’ co-operatives, as a more highly developed organisation, should be preserved, since their operations are essential. There were quite a few differences and disputes within our Party over the question of co-operation; there was friction between the Bolsheviks in the co-operatives and the Bolsheviks in the Soviets. In principle, it seems to me that the question should undoubtedly be settled in the sense that this apparatus, the only one for which capitalism paved the way among the people, the only one operating among a rural population still at the level of primitive capitalism, must be preserved at all costs; it must be developed and must not, under any circumstances be discarded. The task here is a difficult one because in the majority of cases the leaders of the co-operatives are bourgeois specialists, very frequently real whiteguards. Hence the hatred for them, a legitimate hatred, hence the fight against them. But it must, of course, be conducted skilfully: we must put a stop to the counter-revolutionary attempts of the co-operators, but this must not be a struggle against the apparatus of the co-operatives. While getting rid of the counter-revolutionary leaders, we must establish our authority over the apparatus itself. Here our aim is exactly the same as it is in the case of the bourgeois experts, which is another question I should like to refer to.

The question of the bourgeois experts is provoking quite a lot of friction and divergences of opinion. When I recently had occasion to speak to the Petrograd Soviet, among the written questions submitted to me there were several devoted to the question of rates of pay. I was asked whether it is permissible in a socialist republic to pay as much as 3,000 rubles. We have, in fact, included this question in the programme, because dissatisfaction on these grounds has gone rather far. The question of the bourgeois experts has arisen in the army, in industry, in the co-operatives, everywhere. It is a very important question of the period of transition from capitalism to communism. We shall be able to build up communism only when, with the means provided by bourgeois science and technology, we make it more accessible to the people. There is no other way of building a communist society. But in order to build it in this way, we must take the apparatus from the bourgeoisie, we must enlist all these experts in the work. We have intentionally explained this question in detail in the programme in order to have it settled radically. We are perfectly aware of the effects of Russia’s cultural underdevelopment, of what it is doing to Soviet power—which in principle has provided an immensely higher proletarian democracy, which has created a model of such democracy for the whole world—how this lack of culture is reducing the significance of Soviet power and reviving bureaucracy. The Soviet apparatus is accessible to all the working people in word, but actually it is far from being accessible to all of them, as we all know. And not because the laws prevent it from being so, as was the case under the bourgeoisie; on the contrary, our laws assist in this respect. But in this matter laws alone are not enough. A vast amount of educational, organisational and cultural work is required; this cannot be done rapidly by legislation but demands a vast amount of work over a long period. This question of the bourgeois experts must be settled quite definitely at this Congress. The settlement of the question will enable the comrades, who are undoubtedly following this Congress attentively, to lean on its authority and to realise what difficulties we are up against. It will help those comrades who come up against this question at every step to take part at least in propaganda work.

The comrades here in Moscow who are representing the Spartacists at the Congress told us that in western Germany, where industry is most developed, and where the influence of the Spartacists among the workers is greatest, engineers and managers in very many of the large enterprises would come to the Spartacists, although the Spartacists have not yet been victorious there, and say, “We shall go with you.” That was not the case in our country. Evidently, there the higher cultural level of the workers, the greater proletarianisation of the engineering personnel, and perhaps a number of other causes of which we do not know, have created relations which differ somewhat from ours.

At any rate, here we have one of the chief obstacles to further progress. We must immediately, without waiting for the support of other countries, immediately, at this very moment develop our productive forces. We cannot do this without the bourgeois experts. That must be said once and for all. Of course, the majority of these experts have a thoroughly bourgeois outlook. They must be placed in an environment of comradely collaboration, of worker commissars and of communist nuclei; they must be so placed that they cannot break out; but they must be given the opportu- nity of working in better conditions than they did under capitalism, since this group of people, which has been trained by the bourgeoisie, will not work otherwise. To compel a whole section of the population to work under coercion is impossible—that we know very well from experience. We can compel them not to take an active part in counter-revolution, we can intimidate them so as to make them dread to respond to the appeals of the whiteguards. In this respect the Bolsheviks act energetically. This can be done, and this we are doing adequately. This we have all learned to do. But it is impossible in this way to compel a whole section to work. These people are accustomed to do cultural work, they advanced it within the framework of the bourgeois system, that is, they enriched the bourgeoisie with tremendous material acquisitions, but gave them to the proletariat in infinitesimal doses—nevertheless they did advance culture, that was their job. As they see the working class promoting organised and advanced sections, which not only value culture but also help to convey it to the people, they are changing their attitude towards us. When a doctor sees that the proletariat is arousing the working people to independent activity in fighting epidemics, his attitude towards us completely changes. We have a large section of such bourgeois doctors, engineers, agronomists and co-operators, and when they see in practice that the proletariat is enlisting more and more people to this cause, they will be conquered morally, and not merely be cut off from the bourgeoisie politically. Our task will then become easier. They will then of themselves be drawn into our apparatus and become part of it. To achieve this, sacrifices are necessary. To pay even two thousand million for this is a trifle. To fear this sacrifice would be childish, for it would mean that we do not comprehend the tasks before us.

The chaos in our transport, the chaos in industry and agriculture are undermining the very life of the Soviet Republic. Here we must resort to the most energetic measures, straining every nerve of the country to the utmost. We must not practise a policy of petty pinpricks with regard to the experts. These experts are not the servitors of the exploiters, they are active cultural workers, who in bourgeois society served the bourgeoisie, and of whom all socialists all over the world said that in a proletarian society they would serve us. In this transition period we must accord them the best possible conditions of life. That will be the best policy. That will be the most economical management. Otherwise, while saving a few hundred millions, we may lose so much that no sum will be sufficient to restore what we have lost.

When we discussed the question of rates of pay with the Commissar for Labour, Schmidt, he mentioned facts like these. He said that in the matter of equalising wages we have done more than any bourgeois state has done anywhere, or can do in scores of years. Take the pre-war rates of pay: a manual labourer used to get one ruble a day, twenty-five rubles a month, while an expert got five hundred rubles a month, not counting those who were paid hundreds of thousands of rubles. The expert used to receive twenty times more than the worker. Our present rates of pay vary from six hundred rubles to three thousand rubles—only five times more. We have done a great deal towards equalising the rates. Of course, we are now overpaying experts, but to pay them a little more for giving us their knowledge is not only worth while, but necessary and theoretically indispensable. In my opinion, this question is dealt with in sufficient detail in the programme. It must be particularly stressed. Not only must it be settled here in principle, but we must see to it that every delegate to the Congress, on returning to his locality, should, in his report to his organisation and in all his activities, secure its execution.

We have already succeeded in bringing about a thorough change of attitude among the vacillating intellectuals. Yesterday we were talking about legalising the petty-bourgeois parties, but today we are arresting the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries; by this switching back and forth we are applying a very definite system. A consistent and very firm line runs through these changes of policy, namely, to cut off counter-revolution and to utilise the cultural apparatus of the bourgeoisie. The Mensheviks are the worst enemies of socialism, because they clothe themselves in a proletarian disguise; but the Mensheviks are a non-proletarian group. In this group there is only an insignificant proletarian upper layer, while the group itself consists of petty intellectuals. This group is coming over to our side. We shall take it over wholly, as a group. Every time they come to us, we say, “Welcome!” With every one of these vacillations, part of them come over to us. This was the case with the Mensheviks and the Novaya Zhizn people and with the Socialist-Revolutionaries; this will be the case with all these vacillators, who will long continue to get in our way, whine and desert one camp for the other—you cannot do anything with them. But through all these vacillations we shall be enlisting groups of cultured intellectuals into the ranks of Soviet workers, and we shall cut off those elements that continue to support the whiteguards.

The next question which, according to the division of subjects, falls to my share is the question of bureaucracy and of enlisting the broad mass of the people in Soviet work. We have been hearing complaints about bureaucracy for a long time; the complaints are undoubtedly well founded. We have done what no other state in the world has done in the fight against bureaucracy. The apparatus which was a thoroughly bureaucratic and bourgeois apparatus of oppression, and which remains such even in the freest of bourgeois republics, we have destroyed to its very foundations. Take, for example, the courts. Here, it is true, the task was easier; we did not have to create a new apparatus, because anybody can act as a judge basing himself on the revolutionary sense of justice of the working classes. We have still by no means completed the work in this field but in a number of respects we have made the courts what they should be. We have created bodies on which not only men, but also women, the most backward and conservative section of the population, can be made to serve without exception.

The employees in the other spheres of government are more hardened bureaucrats. The task here is more difficult. We cannot live without this apparatus; every branch of government creates a demand for such an apparatus. Here we are suffering from the fact that Russia was not sufficiently developed as a capitalist country. Germany, apparently, will suffer less from this, because her bureaucratic apparatus passed through an extensive school, which sucks people dry but compels them to work and not just wear out armchairs, as happens in our offices. We dispersed these old bureaucrats, shuffled them and then began to place them in new posts. The tsarist bureaucrats began to join the Soviet institutions and practise their bureaucratic methods, they began to assume the colouring of Communists and, to succeed better in their careers, to procure membership cards of the Russian Communist Party. And so, they have been thrown out of the door but they creep back in through the window. What makes itself felt here most is the lack of cultured forces. These bureaucrats may be dismissed, but they cannot be re-educated all at once. Here we are confronted chiefly with organisational, cultural and educational problems.

We can fight bureaucracy to the bitter end, to a complete victory, only when the whole population participates in the work of government. In the bourgeois republics not only is this impossible, but the law itself prevents it. The best of the bourgeois republics, no matter how democratic they may be, have thousands of legal hindrances which prevent the working people from participating in the work of government. What we have done, was to remove these hindrances, but so far we have not reached the stage at which the working people could participate in government. Apart from the law, there is still the level of culture, which you cannot subject to any law. The result of this low cultural level is that the Soviets, which by virtue of their programme are organs of government by the working people, are in fact organs of government for the working people by the advanced section of the proletariat, but not by the working people as a whole.

Here we are confronted by a problem which cannot be solved except by prolonged education. At present this task is an inordinately difficult one for us, because, as I have had frequent occasion to say, the section of workers who are governing is inordinately, incredibly small. We must secure help. According to all indications, such a reserve is growing up within the country. There cannot be the slightest doubt of the existence of a tremendous thirst for knowledge and of tremendous progress in education—mostly attained outside the schools—of tremendous progress in educating the working people. This progress cannot be confined within any school framework, but it is tremendous. All indications go to show that we shall obtain a vast reserve in the near future, which will replace the representatives of the small section of proletarians who have overstrained themselves in the work. But, in any case, our present situation in this respect is extremely difficult. Bureaucracy has been defeated. The exploiters have been eliminated. But the cultural level has not been raised, and therefore the bureaucrats are occupying their old positions. They can be forced to retreat only if the proletariat and the peasants are organised far more extensively than has been the case up to now, and only if real measures are taken to enlist the workers in government. You are all aware of such measures in the case of every People’s Commissariat, and I shall not dwell on them.

The last point I have to deal with is the question of the leading role of the proletariat and disfranchisement. Our Constitution recognises the precedence of the proletariat in respect of the peasants and disfranchises the exploiters. It was this that the pure democrats of Western Europe attacked most. We answered, and are answering, that they have forgotten the most fundamental propositions of Marxism, they have forgotten that with them it is a case of bourgeois democracy, whereas we have passed to proletarian democracy. There is not a single country in the world which has done even one-tenth of what the Soviet Republic has done in the past few months for the workers and the poor peasants in enlisting them in the work of administering the state. That is an absolute truth. Nobody will deny that in the matter of true, not paper, democracy, in the matter of enlisting the workers and peasants, we have done more than has been done or could be done by the best of the democratic republics in hundreds of years. It was this that determined the significance of the Soviets, it was owing to this that the Soviets have become a slogan for the proletariat of all countries.

But this in no way saves us from stumbling over the inadequate culture of the people. We do not at all regard the question of disfranchising the bourgeoisie from an absolute point of view, because it is theoretically quite conceivable that the dictatorship of the proletariat may suppress the bourgeoisie at every step without disfranchising them. This is theoretically quite conceivable. Nor do we propose our Constitution as a model for other countries. All we say is that whoever conceives the transition to socialism with out the suppression of the bourgeoisie is not a socialist. But while it is essential to suppress the bourgeoisie as a class, it is not essential to deprive them of suffrage and of equality. We do not want freedom for the bourgeoisie, we do not recognise equality of exploiters and exploited, but this question is so handled in the programme that the Constitution does not prescribe such measures as the inequality of workers and peasants. They were embodied in the Constitution after they were already in actual practice. It was not even the Bolsheviks who drew up the Constitution of the Soviets; it was drawn up to their own detriment by the Mensheviks and the Socialist-Revolutionaries before the Bolshevik revolution. They drew it up in accordance with the conditions actually obtaining. The organisation of the proletariat proceeded much more rapidly than the organisation of the peasants, which fact made the workers the bulwark of the revolution and gave them a virtual advantage. The next task is gradually to pass from these advantages to their equalisation. Nobody drove the bourgeoisie out of the Soviets either before or after the October Revolution. The bourgeoisie themselves left the Soviets.

That is how the matter stands with the question of suffrage for the bourgeoisie. It is our task to put the question with absolute clarity. We do not in the least apologise for our behaviour, but give an absolutely precise enumeration of the facts as they are. As we point out, our Constitution was obliged to introduce this inequality because the cultural level is low and because with us organisation is weak. But we do not make this an ideal; on the contrary, in its programme the Party undertakes to work systematically to abolish this inequality between the better organised proletariat and the peasants. We shall abolish this inequality as soon as we succeed in raising the cultural level. We shall then be able to get along without such restrictions. Even now, after some seventeen months of revolution, these restrictions are of very small practical importance.

These, comrades, are the main points on which I believed it necessary to dwell in the general discussion of the programme, in order to leave their further consideration to the debate. (Applause.)


[10] See F. Engels, Einleitung zu Sigismund Borkheims Schrift Zur Erinnerung für die deutschen Mordspatrioten 1806-1807 (Introduction to Sigismund Borkheim’s Pamphlet In Memory of the German Arch-Patriots of 1806-1807); in K. Marx, F. Engels, Werke, B. 21, Berlin, 1962, S. 346.

[11] See Karl Marx, Capital, Vol. 1, Moscow, 1959, p. 368.

[12] The Programme adopted by the Second Party Congress in 1903 consisted of two parts—the minimum and maximum programmes. The minimum programme contained demands that could be effected within the framework of the capitalist system—the overthrow of tsarism, the establishment of a democratic republic, the introduction of the eight-hour day, etc. The maximum programme formulated the final aims of the working class—the socialist revolution, the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat and the transition to socialism.

[13] See present edition, Vol. 26, pp. 169-73: Revision of the Party Programme

[14] On December 18 (31), 1917, Lenin handed to Svinhufvud, head of the Finnish bourgeois government, the decision of the Council of People’s Commissars to recognise the independence of Finland. The decision was confirmed by a session of the All-Russia Central Executive Committee on December 22, 1917 (January 4, 1918).

[15] Here Lenin refers to the negotiations in Moscow in March 1919 with a Bashkirian delegation on the question of forming an autonomous Bashkirian Soviet Republic. On March 23, 1919 the newspaper Izvestia published the “Agreement Between Central Soviet Power and the Bashkirian Government on the Formation of Autonomous Soviet Bashkiria”. The agreement set up an Autonomous Bashkirian Soviet Republic on the basis of the Soviet Constitution, defined the Republic’s frontiers and its administrative divisions.

[16] The Warsaw Soviet of Workers’ Deputies was established on November 11, 1918. Soviets of Workers’ Deputies were also set up in many Polish towns and industrial districts. The Warsaw Soviet of Workers’ Deputies set about the factual introduction of the eight-hour day in factories, began a struggle against the sabotage of the factory owners, took a decision on contacts with revolutionary Russia, etc. The Soviets were abolished in the summer of 1919 by the Polish bourgeois government.

[17] This appeal was published on March 20, 1919.