WHAT SHOULD BE THE NAME OF OUR PARTY—ONE THAT WILL BE CORRECT SCIENTIFICALLY AND HELP TO CLARIFY THE MIND OF THE PROLETARIAT POLITICALLY?
19. I now come to the final point, the name of our Party. We must call ourselves the Communist Party—just as Marx and Engels called themselves.
We must repeat that we are Marxists and that we take as our basis the Communist Manifesto, which has been distorted and betrayed by the Social-Democrats on its two main points:
--> (1) the working men have no country: “defence of the fatherland” in an imperialist war is a betrayal of socialism; and (2) the Marxist doctrine of the state has been distorted by the Second International.
The name “Social-Democracy” is scientifically incorrect, as Marx frequently pointed out, in particular, in the Critique of the Gotha Programme in 1875, and as Engels re-affirmed in a more popular form in 1894[Engels, Preface to Internationales aus dem Velkstaat (1871-1875)]. From capitalism mankind can pass directly only to socialism, i.e., to the social ownership of the means of production and the distribution of products according to the amount of work performed by each individual. Our Party looks farther ahead: socialism must inevitably evolve gradually into communism, upon the banner of which is inscribed the motto, “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs”.
That is my first argument.
Here is the second: the second part of the name of our Party (Social-Democrats) is also scientifically incorrect. Democracy is a form of state, whereas we Marxists are opposed to every kind of state.
The leaders of the Second International (1889-1914), Plekhanov, Kautsky and their like, have vulgarised and distorted Marxism.
Marxism differs from anarchism in that it recognises the need for a state for the purpose of the transition to socialism; but (and here is where we differ from Kautsky and Co.) not a state of the type of the usual parliamentary bourgeois-democratic republic, but a state like the Paris Commune of 1871 and the Soviets of Workers’ Deputies of 1905 and 1917.
My third argument: living reality, the revolution, has already actually established in our colmtry, albeit in a weak and embryonic form, precisely this new type of “state”, which is not a state in the proper sense of the word.
This is already a matter of the practical action of the people, and not merely a theory of the leaders.
The state in the proper sense of the term is domination over the people by contingents of armed men divorced from the people.
Our emergent, new state is also a state, for we too need contingents of armed men, we too need the strictest order, and must ruthlessly crush by force all attempts at either a tsarist or a Guchkov-bourgeois counter-revolution.
But our emergent, new state is no longer a state in the proper sense of the term, for in some parts of Russia these contingents of armed men are the masses themselves, the entire people, and not certain privileged persons placed over the people, and divorced from the people, and for all practical purposes undisplaceable.
We must look forward, and not backward to the usual bourgeois type of democracy, which consolidated the rule of the bourgeoisie with the aid of tho old, monarchist organs of administration, the police, the army and the bureaucracy.
We must look forward to the emergent new democracy, which is already ceasing to be a democracy, for democracy means the domination of the people, and the armed people cannot dominate themselves.
The term democracy is not only scientifically incorrect when applied to a Communist Party; it has now, since March 1917, simply become blinders put on the eyes of the revolutionary people and preventing them from boldly and freely, on their own initiative, building up the new: the Soviets of Workers’, Peasants’, and all other Deputies, as the sole power in the “state” and as the harbinger of the “withering away” of the state in every form.
My fourth argument: we must reckon with the actual situation in which socialism finds itself internationally.
It is not what it was during the years 1871 to 1914, when Marx and Engels knowingly put up with the inaccurate, opportunist term “Social-Democracy”. For in those days, after the defeat of the Paris Commune, history made slow organisational and educational work the task of the day. Nothing else was possible. The anarchists were then (as they are now) fundamentally wrong not only theoretically, but also economically and politically. The anarchists misjudged the character of the times, for they failed to understand the world situation: the worker of Britain corrupted by imperialist profits, the Commune defeated in Paris, the recent (1871) triumph of the bourgeois national movement in Germany, the age-long sleep of semi-feudal Russia.
Marx and Engels gauged the times accurately; they understood the international situation; they understood that the approach to the beginning of the social revolution must be slow.
We, in our turn, must also understand the specific features and tasks of the new era. Let us not imitate those sorry Marxists of whom Marx said: “I have sown dragon’s teeth and harvested fleas.”
The objective inevitability of capitalism which grew into imperialism brought about the imperialist war. The war has brought mankind to the brink of a precipice, to the brink of the destruction of civilisation, of the brutalisation and destruction of more millions, countless millions, of human beings.
Theonly way out is through a proletarian revolution.
At the very moment when such a revolution is beginning, when it is taking its first hesitant, groping steps, steps betraying too great a confidence in the bourgeoisie, at such a moment the majority (that is the truth, that is a fact) of the “Social-Democratic” leaders, of the “Social-Democratic” parliamentarians, of the “Social-Democratic” newspapers—and these are precisely the organs that influence the people—have deserted socialism, have betrayed socialism and have gone over to the side of “their own” national bourgeoisie.
The people have been confused, led astray and deceived by these leaders.
And we shall aid and abet that deception if we retain the old and out-of-date Party name, which is as decayed as the Second International!
Granted that “many” workers understand Social-Democracy in an honest way; but it is time to learn how to distinguish the subjective from the objective.
Subjectively, such Social-Democratic workers are most loyal leaders of the proletarians.
Objectively, however, the world situation is such that the old name of our Party makes it easier to fool the people and impedes the onward march; for at every step, in every paper, in every parliamentary group, the masses see leaders, i.e., people whose voices carry farthest and whose actions are most conspicuous; yet they are all “would-be Social-Democrats”, they are all “for unity” with the betrayers of socialism, with the social-chauvinists; and they are all presenting for payment the old bills issued by “Social-Democracy”. . . .
And what are the arguments against? . . . We’ll be confused with the Anarchist-Communists, they say. . . .
Why are we not afraid of being confused with the Social-Nationalists, the Social-Liberals, or the Radical-Socialists, the foremost bourgeois party in the French Republic and the most adroit in the bourgeois deception of the people? . . . We are told: The people are used to it, the workers have come to “love” their Social-Democratic Party.
That is the only argument. But it is an argument that dismisses the science of Marxism, the tasks of the morrow in the revolution, the objective position of world socialism, the shameful collapse of the Second International, and the harm done to the practical cause by the packs of “would-be Social-Democrats” who surround the proletarians.
It is an argument of routinism, an argument of inertia, an argument of stagnation.
But we are out to rebuild the world. We are out to put an end to the imperialist world war into which hundreds of millions of people have been drawn and in which the interests of billions and billions of capital are involved, a war which cannot end in a truly democratic peace without the greatest proletarian revolution in the history of mankind.
Yet we are afraid of our own selves. We are loth to cast off the “dear old” soiled shirt. . . .
But it is time to cast off the soiled shirt and to put on clean linen.
Petrograd, April 10, 1917