Revision of the Party Programme



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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