Leon Trotsky

The Third International
After Lenin

I. The Program of the International Revolution
or a Program of Socialism in One Country?

(Part 1)


1. The General Structure of the Program

2. The United States and Europe

3. The Slogan of the Soviet United States of Europe

4. The Criterion of Internationalism

THE DRAFT PROGRAM, that is, the fundamental document which is to determine the entire activity of the Comintern for many years to come, was published only a few weeks prior to the convocation of the Congress that is being held four years after the Fifth Congress. This tardiness in publication cannot be justified by reference to the fact that the first draft had been published even prior to the Fifth Congress, because several years have since elapsed. The second draft differs from the first in its entire structure and it endeavors to sum up the developments of the last few years. Nothing could be more rash and precipitate than to adopt this draft at the Sixth Congress, a draft which bears obvious traces of hasty, even slipshod work, without any preliminary serious and scientific criticism in the press or an extensive discussion in all parties of the Comintern [Communist International].

During the few days at our disposal between the receipt of the draft and the dispatch of this letter, we could dwell only upon a few of the most vital problems which must be treated in the program.

Due to lack of time, we have been compelled to leave entirely without consideration a number of the most important problems touched upon in the draft which are perhaps less burning today but which may become of exceptional importance tomorrow. This does not at all imply that it is less necessary to criticize them than those sections of the draft to which the present work is devoted.

We must also add that we are compelled to work on the new draft under conditions which make it impossible to obtain indispensable information. Enough to mention the fact that we were unable to procure even the first draft of the program, and in dealing with it, as well as in two or three other cases, we have had to rely upon our memory. It goes without saying that all quotations have been taken from the original sources and checked carefully.

1. The Program of the International Revolution or a Program of Socialism in One Country?

THE MOST important question on the agenda of the Sixth Congress is the adoption of a program. The nature of the latter may for a long time determine and fix the physiognomy of the International. The importance of a program does not lie so much in the manner in which it formulates general theoretical conceptions (in the last analysis, this boils down to a question of “codification,” i.e., a concise exposition of the truths and generalizations which have been firmly and decisively acquired); it is to a much greater degree a question of drawing up the balance of the world economic and political experiences of the last period, particularly of the revolutionary struggles of the last five years – so rich in events and mistakes. For the next few years, the fate of the Communist International – in the literal sense of the word – depends upon the manner in which these events, mistakes, and controversies are interpreted and judged in the program.

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1. The General Structure of the Program

In our epoch, which is the epoch of imperialism, i.e., of world economy and world politics under the hegemony of finance capital, not a single communist party can establish its program by proceeding solely or mainly from conditions and tendencies of developments in its own country. This also holds entirely for the party that wields the state power within the boundaries of the USSR. On August 4, 1914, the death knell sounded for national programs for all time. The revolutionary party of the proletariat can base itself only upon an international program corresponding to the character of the present epoch, the epoch of the highest development and collapse of capitalism. An international communist program is in no case the sum total of national programs or an amalgam of their common features. The international program must proceed directly from an analysis of the conditions and tendencies of world economy and of the world political system taken as a whole in all its connections and contradictions, that is, with the mutually antagonistic interdependence of its separate parts. In the present epoch, to a much larger extent than in the past, the national orientation of the proletariat must and can flow only from a world orientation and not vice versa. Herein lies the basic and primary difference between communist internationalism and all varieties of national socialism.

Basing ourselves upon these considerations, we wrote in January of this year: “We must begin work to draft a program of the Comintern (Bukharin’s program is a bad program of a national section of the Comintern and not a program of a world communist party).” [1]

We have kept insisting upon these considerations since 1923 -1924 when the question of the United States of America arose in its full scope as a problem of world and, in the most direct sense of the term, of European politics.

In recommending the new draft, Pravda wrote that a communist program “differs radically from the program of the international social democracy not only in the substance of its central postulates but also in the characteristic internationalism of its structure.” [2]

In this somewhat cloudy formulation is obviously expressed the idea which we stated above and which was formerly stubbornly rejected. One can only welcome the break with the first draft program presented by Bukharin, which did not even provoke a serious exchange of opinion; nor, for that matter, did it offer any grounds for one. Whereas the first draft gave a bald schematic description of the development of one abstract country towards socialism, the new draft seeks, unfortunately, and, as we shall see, without consistency or success, to take world economy as a whole as the basis for determining the fate of its individual parts.

Linking up countries and continents that stand on different levels of development into a system of mutual dependence and antagonism, leveling out the various stages of their development and at the same time immediately enhancing the differences between them, and ruthlessly counterposing one country to another, world economy has become a mighty reality which holds sway over the economic life of individual countries and continents. This basic fact alone invests the idea of a world communist party with a supreme reality. Bringing world economy as a whole to the highest phase of development generally attainable on the basis of private property, imperialism, as the draft states quite correctly in its introduction, “aggravates to an extreme tension the contradiction between the growth of the productive forces of world economy and the national-state barriers.”

Without grasping the meaning of this proposition, which was vividly revealed to mankind for the first time during the last imperialist war, we cannot take a single step towards the solution of the major problems of world politics and revolutionary struggle.

We could only welcome the radical shift of the very axis of the program in the new draft were it not for the fact that the effort to reconcile this, the only correct position, with tendencies of a directly contrary character has resulted in turning the draft into an arena of the cruelest contradictions, which entirely nullify the principled significance of the new manner of approaching the question in its fundamental aspects.

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2. The United States of America and Europe

To characterize the first, fortunately discarded draft, it suffices to say that, so far as we recall, the name of the United States of America was not even mentioned in it. The essential problems of the imperialist epoch – which, because of the very character of this epoch, must be examined not only in their abstract and theoretical but also in their concrete and historical cross-section – were dissolved in the first draft into a lifeless schema of a capitalistic country “in general.” However, the new draft – and this, of course, is a serious step forward – now speaks of ”the shift of the economic center of the world to the United States of America”; and of “the transformation of the ‘Dollar Republic’ into a world exploiter”; and finally, that the rivalry (the draft loosely says “conflict”) between North American and European capitalism, primarily British capitalism, “is becoming the axis of the world conflicts.” It is already quite obvious today that a program which did not contain a clear and precise definition of these basic facts and factors of the world situation would have nothing in common with the program of the international revolutionary party.

Unfortunately, the essential facts and tendencies of world development in the modern epoch which we have just indicated are merely mentioned by name in the text of the draft, grafted on to it, as it were, by way of theoretical back-writing, without having any internal connection with its entire structure and without leading to any conclusions about perspective or strategy.

America’s new role in Europe since the capitulation of the German Communist Party, and the defeat of the German proletariat in 1923, has been left absolutely unevaluated. No attempt at all has been made to explain that the period of the “stabilization,” “normalization,” and “pacification” of Europe as well as the “regeneration” of the social democracy, has proceeded in close material and ideological connection with the first steps of American intervention in European affairs.

Moreover, it has not been shown that the inevitable further development of American expansion, the contraction of the markets of European capital, including the European market itself, entail the greatest military, economic, and revolutionary convulsions, beside which all those of the past fade into the background.

Again, neither has it been made clear that the further inexorable pressure of the United States will reduce capitalist Europe to constantly more limited rations in world economy; and this, of course, implies not a mitigation, but on the contrary, a monstrous sharpening of inter-state relations in Europe accompanied by furious paroxysms of military conflict, for states as well as classes fight even more fiercely for a meagre and a diminishing ration than for a lavish and growing one.

The draft does not explain that the internal chaos of the state antagonisms in Europe renders hopeless any sort of serious and successful resistance to the constantly more centralized North American republic; and that the resolution of the European chaos through the Soviet United States of Europe is one of the first tasks of the proletarian revolution. The latter (precisely because of the existence of barriers) is immeasurably closer in Europe than in America and will, therefore, most likely have to defend itself from the North American bourgeoisie.

On the other hand, no mention at all has been made of the fact (and this is just as important a phase of the same world problem) that it is precisely the international strength of the United States and her irresistible expansion arising from it, that compels her to include the powder magazines of the whole world into the foundations of her structure, i.e., all the antagonisms between the East and the West, the class struggle in Old Europe, the uprisings of the colonial masses, and all wars and revolutions. On the one hand, this transforms North American capitalism into the basic counter-revolutionary force of the modern epoch, constantly more interested in the maintenance of “order” in every corner of the terrestrial globe; and on the other hand, this prepares the ground for a gigantic revolutionary explosion in this already dominant and still expanding world imperialist power. The logic of world relations indicates that the time of this explosion cannot lag very far behind that of the proletarian revolution in Europe.

Our elucidation of the dialectics of the interrelations between America and Europe have made us the target in recent years of the most diversified accusations, charging us with the pacifist denial of the existence of European contradictions, with the acceptance of Kautsky’s theory of ultra-imperialism, and many other sins. There is no need to dwell here upon these “accusations,” which are at best due to a complete ignorance of the real processes and of our attitude toward them. We cannot refrain from observing, however, that it would be hard to waste more effort in confusing and muddling up this most vital world problem than was wasted (incidentally, by the authors of the draft program) in their petty struggle against our formulation of the problem. Our formulation has, however, been entirely confirmed by the course of events.

Even recently, efforts have been made in leading communist organs to minimize – on paper – the significance of American hegemony by alluding to the impending commercial and industrial crisis in the United States. We cannot here enter into an examination of the special problem of the duration of the American crisis and its possible depth. This is a question of conjuncture and not of program. It goes without saying that in our opinion the inevitability of a crisis is entirely beyond doubt; nor, considering the present world scope of American capitalism, do we think it is out of the question that the very next crisis will attain extremely great depth and sharpness. But there is no justification whatsoever for the attempt to conclude from this that the hegemony of North America will be restricted or weakened. Such a conclusion can lead only to the grossest strategical errors.

Just the contrary is the case. In the period of crisis the hegemony of the United States will operate more completely, more openly, and more ruthlessly than in the period of boom. The United States will seek to overcome and extricate herself from her difficulties and maladies primarily at the expense of Europe, regardless of whether this occurs in Asia, Canada, South America, Australia, or Europe itself, or whether this takes place peacefully or through war.

We must clearly understand that if the first period of American intervention had the effect of stabilization and pacification on Europe, which to a considerable extent still remains in force today, and may even recur episodically and become stronger (particularly in the event of new defeats of the proletariat), the general line of American policy, particularly in time of its own economic difficulties and crisis, will engender the deepest convulsions in Europe as well as over the entire world.

From this we draw the not unimportant conclusion that there will be no more lack of revolutionary situations in the next decade than in the past decade. That is why it is of utmost importance to understand correctly the mainsprings of development so that we may not be caught unawares by their action. If in the past decade the main source of revolutionary situations lay in the direct consequences of the imperialist war, in the second post-war decade the most important source of revolutionary upheavals will be the interrelations of Europe and America. A major crisis in the United States will strike the tocsin for new wars and revolutions. We repeat: there will be no lack of revolutionary situations. The entire question hinges upon the international party of the proletariat, the maturity and fighting ability of the Comintern, and the correctness of its strategical position and tactical methods.

In the draft program of the Comintern absolutely no expression is to be found of this trend of thought. A fact of such great importance, it would seem, as “the shifting of the world economic center to the United States,” is glossed over by a casual journalistic remark. It is, of course, utterly impossible to justify this on the ground of lack of space, for what should be allowed space in a program if not the fundamental questions? Besides, it should be added that too much space is devoted in the program to questions of secondary and tertiary importance, to say nothing of the general literary looseness and innumerable repetitions by elimination of which the program could be reduced at least one-third.

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3. The Slogan of the Soviet United States of Europe

There is no justifying the omission of the slogan of the Soviet United States of Europe from the new draft program, a slogan which was accepted by the Comintern back in 1923, after a rather protracted internal struggle. Or is it, perhaps, that the authors want to “return” to Lenin’s position of 1915 precisely on this question? If that is the case, they must first understand it correctly.

Lenin, as is well known, was hesitant at the beginning of the war in regard to the slogan of the United States of Europe. The slogan was originally included in the theses of the Sotsial Demokrat (the central organ of the party at the time) and then rejected by Lenin. This in itself indicates that the question involved here was not that of the general acceptability of the slogan on principle, but merely a tactical appraisal of it, a question of weighing its positive and negative aspects from the standpoint of the given situation. Needless to say, Lenin rejected the possibility that a capitalist United States of Europe could be realized. That was also my approach to the question when I advanced the slogan of the United States of Europe exclusively as a prospective state form of the proletarian dictatorship in Europe.

I wrote at that time: “A more or less complete economic unification of Europe accomplished from above through an agreement between capitalist governments is a utopia. Along this road matters cannot proceed beyond partial compromises and half measures. But this alone, an economic unification of Europe, such as would entail colossal advantages both to the producer and consumer and to the development of culture in general, is becoming a revolutionary task of the European proletariat in its struggle against imperialist protectionism and its instrument – militarism.” [3]

Further: “The United States of Europe represents first of all a form – the only conceivable form – of the dictatorship of the proletariat in Europe.” [4]

But even in this formulation of the question Lenin saw at that time a certain danger. In the absence of any experience of a proletarian dictatorship in a single country and of theoretical clarity on this question even in the Left wing of the social democracy of that period, the slogan of the United States of Europe might have given rise to the idea that the proletarian revolution must begin simultaneously, at least on the whole European continent. It was against this very danger that Lenin issued a warning, but on this point there was not a shade of difference between Lenin and myself. I wrote at the time: “Not a single country must ‘wait’ for the other countries in its struggle. It will be useful and necessary to repeat this elementary idea so that temporizing international inaction may not be substituted for parallel international action. Without waiting for the others, we must begin and continue the struggle on national grounds with the full conviction that our initiative will provide an impulse to the struggle in other countries.” [5]

Then follow those words of mine which Stalin presented at the Seventh Plenum of the ECCI as the most vicious expression of “Trotskyism,” i.e., as “lack of faith” in the inner forces of the revolution and the hope for aid from without. “And if this [the development of the revolution in other countries – L.T.] were not to occur, it would be hopeless to think (this is borne out both by historical experience and by theoretical considerations) that a revolutionary Russia, for instance, could hold out in face of conservative Europe, or that a socialist Germany could remain isolated in a capitalist world.” [6]

On the basis of this and two or three similar quotations is founded the condemnation pronounced against “Trotskyism” by the Seventh Plenum as having allegedly held on this “fundamental question” a position “which has nothing in common with Leninism.” Let us, therefore, pause for a moment and listen to Lenin himself.

On March 7, 1918, he said a propos of the Brest-Litovsk peace: “This is a lesson to us because the absolute truth is that without a revolution in Germany, we shall perish.” [7]

A week later he said: “World imperialism cannot live side by side with a victorious advancing social revolution.” [8]

A few weeks later, on April 23, Lenin said: “Our backwardness has thrust us forward and we will perish if we are unable to hold out until we meet with the mighty support of the insurrectionary workers of other countries.” (Our emphasis) [9]

But perhaps this was all said under the special influence of the Brest-Litovsk crisis? No ! In March 1919, Lenin again repeated: “We do not live merely in a state but in a system of states and the existence of the Soviet Republic side by side with imperialist states for any length of time is inconceivable. In the end one or the other must triumph.” [10]

A year later, on April 7, 1920, Lenin reiterates: “Capitalism, if taken on an international scale, is even now, not only in a military but also in an economic sense, stronger than the Soviet power. We must proceed from this fundamental consideration and never forget it.” [11]

On November 27, 1920, Lenin, in dealing with the question of concessions, said: “We have now passed from the arena of war to the arena of peace and we have not forgotten that war will come again. As long as capitalism and socialism remain side by side we cannot live peacefully – the one or the other will be the victor in the end. An obituary will be sung either over the death of world capitalism or the death of the Soviet Republic. At present we have only a respite in the war.” [12]

But perhaps the continued existence of the Soviet Republic impelled Lenin to “recognize his mistake” and renounce his “lack of faith in the inner force” of the October Revolution?

At the Third Congress of the Comintern in July 1921, Lenin declared in the theses on the tactics of the Communist Party of Russia: “An equilibrium has been created, which though extremely precarious and unstable, nevertheless enables the socialist republic to maintain its existence within capitalist surroundings, although of course not for any great length of time.”

Again, on July 5, 1921, Lenin stated point-blank at one of the sessions of the Congress: ‘It was clear to us that without aid from the international world revolution, a victory of the proletarian revolution is impossible. Even prior to the revolution, as well as after it, we thought that the revolution would also occur either immediately or at least very soon in other backward countries and in the more highly developed capitalist countries, otherwise we would perish. Notwithstanding this conviction, we did our utmost to preserve the Soviet system under any circumstances and at all costs, because we know that we are working not only for ourselves but also for the international revolution.” [13]

How infinitely removed are these words, so superb in their simplicity and permeated with the spirit of internationalism, from the present smug fabrications of the epigones!

In any case, we have the right to ask: wherein do all these statements of Lenin differ from my conviction in the year 1915 that the coming revolution in Russia or the coming socialist Germany could not hold out alone if “isolated in a capitalist world”? The time factor proved to be different from that posited not only by myself but also in Lenin’s forecasts; but the underlying idea retains its full force even today – at the given moment perhaps more so than ever before. Instead of condemning this idea, as the Seventh Plenum of the ECCI has done on the basis of an incompetent and unscrupulous speech, it should be included in the program of the Communist International.

Defending the slogan of the Soviet United States of Europe, we pointed out in 1915, that the law of uneven development is in itself no argument against this slogan, because the unevenness of historical development of different countries and continents is in itself uneven. European countries develop unevenly in relation to one another. Nevertheless it can be maintained with absolute historical certainty that not a single one of these countries is fated, at least in the historical epoch under review, to run so far ahead in relation to other countries as America has run ahead of Europe. For America there is one scale of unevenness, for Europe there is another. Geographically and historically, conditions have predetermined such a close organic bond between the countries of Europe that there is no way for them to tear themselves out of it. The modern bourgeois governments of Europe are like murderers chained to a single cart. The revolution in Europe, as has already been said, will in the final analysis be of decisive importance for America as well. But directly, in the immediate course of history, a revolution in Germany will have an immeasurably greater significance for France than for the United States of America. It is precisely from this historically developed relationship that there flows the political vitality of the slogan of the European Soviet Federation. We speak of its relative vitality because it stands to reason that this Federation will extend, across the great bridge of the Soviet Union, to Asia, and will then effect a union of the World Socialist Republics. But this will constitute a second epoch or a subsequent great chapter of the imperialist epoch, and when we approach it more closely, we will also find the corresponding formulas for it.

It can be proven without any difficulty by further quotations that our difference with Lenin in 1915 over the question of the United States of Europe was of a restricted, tactical, and, by its very essence, temporary character; but it is best proven by the subsequent course of events. In 1923 the Communist International adopted the controversial slogan. Were it true that the slogan of the United States of Europe was inacceptable in 1915 on grounds of principle, as the authors of the draft program now seek to maintain, then the Communist International could not possibly have adopted it. The law of uneven development, one would think, had not lost its effectiveness during these years.

The entire formulation of the questions as outlined above flows from the dynamics of the revolutionary process taken as a whole. The international revolution is regarded as an interconnected process which cannot be predicted in all its concreteness, and, so to speak, its order of occurrence, but which is absolutely clearcut in its general historical outline. Unless the latter is understood, a correct political orientation is entirely out of the question.

However, matters appear quite differently if we proceed from the idea of a socialist development which is occurring and is even being completed in one country. We have today a “theory” which teaches that it is possible to build socialism completely in one country and that the correlations of that country with the capitalist world can be established on the basis of “neutralizing” the world bourgeoisie (Stalin). The necessity for the slogan of a United States of Europe falls away, or is at least diminished, if this essentially national-reformist and not revolutionary-internationalist point of view is adopted. But this slogan is, from our viewpoint, important and vitally necessary because there is lodged in it the condemnation of the idea of an isolated socialist development. For the proletariat of every European country, even to a larger measure than for the USSR. – the difference, however, is one of degree only – it will be most vitally necessary to spread the revolution to the neighboring countries and to support insurrections there with arms in hand, not out of any abstract considerations of international solidarity, which in themselves cannot set the classes in motion, but because of those vital considerations which Lenin formulated hundreds of times – namely, that without timely aid from the international revolution, we will be unable to hold out. The slogan of the Soviet United States corresponds to the dynamics of the proletarian revolution, which does not break out simultaneously in all countries, but which passes from country to country and requires the closest bond between them, especially on the European arena, both with a view to defense against the most powerful external enemies, and with a view to economic construction.

One may, to be sure, try to raise an objection by asserting that following the period of the Ruhr crisis, which provided the latest impulse for the adoption of that slogan, the latter has not played a major role in the agitation for the communist parties of Europe and has, so to speak, not taken root. But this is equally true of such slogans as the workers’ state, Soviets, and so forth, i.e., all the slogans of the directly pre-revolutionary period. The explanation for this lies in the fact that since the end of 1923, notwithstanding the erroneous political appraisals of the Fifth Congress, the revolutionary movement on the European continent has been on the decline. But that is just why it is fatal to base a program, in whole or in part, upon impressions received only during that period. It was no mere accident that, despite all prejudices, the slogan of a Soviet United States of Europe was adopted precisely in 1923, at a time when a revolutionary explosion was expected in Germany, and when the question of the state interrelationships in Europe assumed an extremely burning character. Every new aggravation, of the European and indeed of the world crisis is sufficiently sharp to bring to the fore the main political problems and to invest the slogan of the United States of Europe with attractive power. It is therefore fundamentally wrong to pass over this slogan in silence in the program without rejecting it, that is, to keep it somewhere in reserve, for use “in case of emergency.” When questions of principle are involved, the policy of making reservations is futile.

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4. The Criterion of Internationalism

The draft, as we already know, seeks to proceed in its construction from the standpoint of world economy and its internal tendencies – an attempt which merits recognition. Pravda is absolutely correct in saying that herein lies the basic difference in principle between us and the national-patriotic social democracy. A program of the international party of the proletariat can be built only if world economy, which dominates its separate parts, is taken as the point of departure. But precisely in analyzing the main tendencies of world development, the draft not only reveals inadequacies which depreciate its value, as has already been pointed out above, but it also is grossly one-sided, which leads it to commit grave blunders.

The draft refers time and again, and not always in the proper place, to the law of uneven development of capitalism as the main and almost all-determining law of that development. A number of mistakes in the draft, including one fundamental error, are theoretically based on the one-sided and false non-Marxian and non-Leninist interpretation of the law of uneven development.

In its first chapter the draft states that “the unevenness of economic and political development is an unconditional law of capitalism. This unevenness becomes still more accentuated and aggravated in the epoch of imperialism.”

This is correct. This formulation in part condemns Stalin’s recent formulation of the question, according to which both Marx and Engels were ignorant of the law of uneven development which was allegedly first discovered by Lenin. On September 15, 1925, Stalin wrote that Trotsky has no reason whatever to refer to Engels because the latter wrote at a time “when there could be no talk [!!] about the knowledge of the law of uneven development of capitalist countries.” Unbelievable as these words may be, Stalin, one of the authors of the draft, has nevertheless repeated them more than once. The text of the draft, as we have seen, has taken a step forward in this respect. However, if we leave aside the correction of this elementary mistake, what the draft says about the law of uneven development remains in essence one-sided and inadequate.

In the first place, it would have been more correct to say that the entire history of mankind is governed by the law of uneven development. Capitalism finds various sections of mankind at different stages of development, each with its profound internal contradictions. The extreme diversity in the levels attained, and the extraordinary unevenness in the rate of development of the different sections of mankind during the various epochs, serve as the starting point of capitalism. Capitalism gains mastery only gradually over the inherited unevenness, breaking and altering it, employing therein its own means and methods. In contrast to the economic systems which preceded it, capitalism inherently and constantly aims at economic expansion, at the penetration of new territories, the surmounting of economic differences, the conversion of self-sufficient provincial and national economies into a system of financial interrelationships. Thereby it brings about their rapprochement and equalizes the economic and cultural levels of the most progressive and the most backward countries. Without this main process, it would be impossible to conceive of the relative leveling out, first, of Europe with Great Britain, and then, of America with Europe; the industrialization of the colonies, the diminishing gap between India and Great Britain, and all the consequences arising from the enumerated processes upon which is based not only the program of the Communist International but also its very existence.

By drawing the countries economically closer to one another and leveling out their stages of development, capitalism, however, operates by methods of its own, that is to say, by anarchistic methods which constantly undermine its own work, set one country against another, and one branch of industry against another, developing some parts of world economy while hampering and throwing back the development of others. Only the correlation of these two fundamental tendencies – both of which arise from the nature of capitalism – explains to us the living texture of the historical process.

Imperialism, thanks to the universality, penetrability, and mobility and the break-neck speed of the formation of finance capital as the driving force of imperialism, lends vigor to both these tendencies. Imperialism links up incomparably more rapidly and more deeply the individual national and continental units into a single entity, bringing them into the closest and most vital dependence upon each other and rendering their economic methods, social forms, and levels of development more identical. At the same time, it attains this “goal” by such antagonistic methods, such tiger-leaps, and such raids upon backward countries and areas that the unification and leveling of world economy which it has effected, is upset by it even more violently and convulsively than in the preceding epochs. Only such a dialectical and not purely mechanical understanding of the law of uneven development can make possible the avoidance of the fundamental error which the draft program, submitted to the Sixth Congress, has failed to avoid.

Immediately after its one-sided characterization of the law of uneven development pointed out by us, the draft program says:

“Hence it follows that the international proletarian revolution must not be regarded as a single, simultaneous, and universal act. Hence it follows that the victory of socialism is at first possible in a few, or even in one isolated capitalist country.”

That the international revolution of the proletariat cannot be a simultaneous act, of this there can of course be no dispute at all among grown-up people after the experience of the October Revolution, achieved by the proletariat of a backward country under pressure of historical necessity, without waiting in the least for the proletariat of the advanced countries “to even out the front.” Within these limits, the reference to the law of uneven development is absolutely correct and quite in place. But it is entirely otherwise with the second half of the conclusion – namely, the hollow assertion that the victory of socialism is possible “in one isolated capitalist country.” To prove its point the draft program simply says: “Hence it follows ...” One gets the impression that this follows from the law of uneven development. But this does not follow at all. “Hence follows” something quite the contrary. If the historical process were such that some countries developed not only unevenly but even independently of each other, isolated from each other, then from the law of uneven development would indubitably follow the possibility of building socialism in one capitalist country – at first in the most advanced country and then, as they mature, in the more backward ones. Such was the customary and, so to speak, average idea of the transition to socialism within the ranks of the pre-war social democracy. This is precisely the idea that formed the theoretical basis of social-patriotism. Of course, the draft program does not hold this view. But it inclines towards it.

The theoretical error of the draft lies in the fact that it seeks to deduce from the law of uneven development something which the law does not and cannot imply. Uneven or sporadic development of various countries acts constantly to upset but in no case to eliminate the growing economic bonds and interdependence between those countries which the very next day, after four years of hellish slaughter, were compelled to exchange coal, bread, oil, powder, and suspenders with each other. On this point, the draft posits the question as if historical development proceeds only on the basis of sporadic leaps, while the economic basis which gives rise to these leaps, and upon which they occur, is either left entirely out of sight by the authors of the draft, or is forcibly eliminated by them. This they do with the sole object of defending the indefensible theory of socialism in one country.

After what has been said it is not difficult to understand that the only correct formulation of the question should read that Marx and Engels, even prior to the imperialist epoch, had arrived at the conclusion that on the one hand, unevenness, i.e., sporadic historical development, stretches the proletarian revolution through an entire epoch in the course of which nations will enter the revolutionary flood one after another; while, on the other hand, the organic interdependence of the several countries, developing toward an international division of labor, excludes the possibility of building socialism in one country. This means that the Marxian doctrine, which posits that the socialist revolution can begin only on a national basis, while the building of socialism in one country is impossible, has been rendered doubly and trebly true, all the more so now, in the modern epoch when imperialism has developed, deepened, and sharpened both, of these antagonistic tendencies. On this point, Lenin merely developed and concretized Marx’s own formulation and Marx’s own answer to this question.

Our party program is based entirely upon the international conditions underlying the October Revolution and the socialist construction. To prove this, one need only transcribe the entire theoretical part of our program. Here we will confine ourselves merely to pointing out that when, during the Eighth Congress of our party, the late Podbelsky inferred that some formulations of the program had reference only to the revolution in Russia, Lenin replied as follows in his concluding speech on the question of the party program (March 19, 1919):

“Podbelsky has raised objections to a paragraph which speaks of the pending social revolution ... His argument is obviously unfounded because our program deals with the social revolution on a world scale.” [14]

It will not be out of place here to point out that at about the same time Lenin suggested that our party should change its name from the Communist Party of Russia to the Communist Party, so as to emphasize still further that it is a party of international revolution. I was the only one voting for Lenin’s motion in the Central Committee. However, he did not bring the matter before the Congress in view of the foundation of the Third International. This position is proof of the fact that there was not even an inkling of socialism in one country at that time. That alone is the reason why the party program does not condemn this “theory” but merely excludes it.

But the program of the Young Communist League, adopted two years later, had to issue a direct warning against home-bred illusions and national narrow-mindedness on the question of the proletarian revolution, in order to train the youth in the spirit of internationalism. We will have more to say on this point later.

The new draft program of the Comintern puts the matter quite differently. In harmony with the revisionist evolution of its authors since 1924, the draft, as we have seen, chooses the directly opposite path. But the manner in which the question of socialism in one country is solved determines the nature of the entire draft as a Marxian or a revisionist document.

Of course, the draft program carefully, persistently, and severally presents, emphasizes, and explains the difference between the communist and reformist formulation of questions. But these assurances do not solve the problem. We have here a situation similar to that on board a ship which is equipped and even overloaded with numerous Marxian mechanisms and appliances, while its mainsail is so raised as to be purposely swelled by every revisionist and reformist wind.

Whoever has learned from the experiences of the last three decades and particularly from the extraordinary experience in China during the recent years, understands the powerful dialectical interdependence between the class struggle and the programmatic party documents and will understand our statement that the new revisionist sail can nullify all the safety appliances of Marxism and Leninism. That is why we are compelled to dwell in greater detail upon this cardinal question, which will for a long time determine the development and destiny of the Communist International.

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1. Pravda, Jan. 15, 1928.

2. Pravda, May 29, 1928.

3. Trotsky, The Peace Program, Works, Vol.III, part 1, p.85, Russian ed.

4. Ibid., p.92.

5. Ibid., pp.89-90.

6. Ibid., p.90.

7. (Lenin, Works, Vol.XV, p.132, Russian [old] ed.

8. Ibid., p.175.

9. Ibid., p.187.

10. Works, Vol.XVI, p.102.

11. Works, Vol.XVII, p.102.

12. Ibid., p.398.

13. Works, Vol.XVIII, part 1, p.321.

14. Works, Vol.XVI, p.131.

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Last updated on: 14.4.2007