Revision of the Party Programme



We must draw our conclusions on the chief question which should, according to the unanimous decision of all Bolsheviks, be primarily dealt with and assessed in the new programme—the question of imperialism. Comrade Sokolnikov maintains that such treatment and assessment could be more expediently given piecemeal, so to speak, dividing up the various characteristics of imperialism among various sections of the programme. I think it would be more to the purpose to present it in a special section or a special part of the programme, by gathering together everything that there is to say about imperialism. The members of the Party now have both drafts before them, and the congress will decide. We are in full accord with Comrade Sokolnikov in that imperialism must be dealt with. What we must find out is whether there are differences of opinion as to how imperialism should be treated and assessed.

From this point of view let us examine the two drafts of the new programme. In my draft five basic distinguishing features of imperialism are presented: (1) capitalist monopoly associations; (2) the fusion of banking and industrial capital; (3) the export of capital to foreign countries; (4) the territorial partition of the globe, already completed; (5) the partition of the globe among international economic trusts. (In my pamphlet Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism, which came out after the Materials Relating to the Revision of the Party Programme, these five distinguishing features of imperialism are cited on p. 85.[See present edition, Vol. 22, p. 266. —Ed.]) In Comrade Sokolnikov's draft we actually find the same five basic features, so that on the question of imperialism there is apparently complete agreement in principle within our Party—as was to be expected, for the practical propaganda of our Party on this question, both oral and printed, has long since, from the very beginning of the revolution, shown the complete unanimity of all the Bolsheviks on this fundamental question.

What remains to be examined is the differences in the way the definition and characterisation of imperialism are formulated. Both drafts point specifically to the time when capitalism may be properly regarded as having become transformed into imperialism. The necessity for such a statement in the interests of precision and correct historical evaluation of economic development would hardly be denied. Comrade Sokolnikov says: "during the last quarter of a century"; I say: "about the beginning of the twentieth century". In the above-mentioned pamphlet on imperialism (on pp: 10 and 11, for instance[See present edition, Vol. 22, pp. 200-02. —Ed.]) I cited the testimony of an economist who has made a special study of cartels and syndicates. According to him, the turn towards the complete victory of the cartels in Europe came with the crisis of 1900-03. That is why, it seems, it would be more accurate to say: "about the beginning of the twentieth century" than "during the last quarter of a century". It would be more correct for still another reason. The above-mentioned specialist and all other European economists, generally work with data supplied by Germany, and Germany is far ahead of other countries in the formation of cartels.

Furthermore, speaking of monopolies my draft says: "Monopolist associations of capitalists have assumed decisive importance." Comrade Sokolnikov calls attention to monopoly associations several times. Only once is he fairly definite:

"During the last quarter of a century the direct or indirect control of production organised on capitalist lines has passed into the hands of all-powerful, interlocking banks, trusts and syndicates which have formed world-wide monopoly associations under the direction of a handful of magnates of finance capital."

Here, it appears, there is too much "propaganda". "To win popularity" something that has no place there is injected into the programme. In newspaper articles, in speeches, in popular pamphlets, "propaganda" is indispensable; the programme of a party, however, must be distinguished by the precision of its economics; it must contain nothing superfluous. The statement that "capitalist monopoly associations have acquired decisive importance" seems to me more exact; it says all that is necessary. Besides much superfluous matter, the above-quoted excerpt from Comrade Sokolnikov's draft contains an expression questionable from the theoretical point of view—"control of production organised on capitalist lines". Is it only organised on capitalist lines? No. This is too weak. Even production not so organised—petty craftsmen, peasants, small cotton-growers in the colonies, etc., etc.—has become dependent on banks and finance capital in general. When we speak of "world capitalism" in general (and this is the only capitalism we can discuss here if we are not to make mistakes), our statement that monopolist associations acquire "a decisive importance" does not mean that any other producers are excluded from subordination to this rule. To limit the influence of monopolist associations to "production organised on capitalist lines" is incorrect.

To proceed. In his draft, Comrade Sokolnikov twice repeats the same thing about the role played by banks: once in the above-quoted passage and a second time in the section dealing with crises and wars, where he defines finance capital as "the product of a merger of banking and industrial capital". My draft says that "enormously concentrated banking capital has fused with industrial capital". To say it once in the programme is sufficient.

The third feature "the export of capital to foreign countries has assumed vast dimensions" (so in my draft). In Comrade Sokolnikov's draft, we find a mere reference to the "export of capital" in one place, while in another, and in an entirely different connection, we read of "new countries which are fields for the utilisation of capital exported in search of superprofits". It is difficult to accept as correct the statement on superprofits and new countries since capital has also been exported from Germany to Italy, from France to Switzerland, etc. Under imperialism, capital has begun to be exported to the old countries as well, and not for superprofits alone. What is true with regard to the new countries is not true with regard to the export of capital in general.

The fourth feature is what Hilferding has called "the struggle for economic territory". This term is not exact, for it does not indicate what mostly distinguishes modern imperialism from the older forms of struggle for economic territory. Ancient Rome fought for such territories; the European kingdoms in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries fought for such territories and acquired colonies; so did old Russia by her conquest of Siberia, etc. The distinguishing feature of modern imperialism is (as pointed out in my draft) that "the whole world has been divided up territorially among the richer countries", i.e., the partition of the earth among various states has been completed. This circumstance makes the conflicts for a re-partitioning of the globe all the sharper, and is the cause of the particularly sharp collisions which lead to war.

All this is expressed in Comrade Sokolnikov's draft with great verbosity and is hardly accurate theoretically. But before I quote his statement of the case which also includes the economic partitioning of the globe, I will first touch upon that fifth and last feature of imperialism. Here is how this is expressed in my draft:

"The economic partitioning of the world among international trusts has begun." The data of political economy and statistics do not warrant any more elaborate statement. This partitioning of the world is a very important process, but it has just begun. This partitioning, or rather re-partitioning of the world, is bound to cause imperialist wars since the territorial partition is complete, i.e., there are no more "free" lands that can be grabbed without war against a rival nation.

Let us see now how Comrade Sokolnikov formulates this part of the programme:

"But the realm of capitalist relations becomes ever wider; they are carried across frontiers, into new lands. These lands serve the capitalists as markets for commodities, as sources of raw materials, as fields for the utilisation of capital exported in search of superprofits. The vast accumulation of surplus value at the disposal of finance capital (a product of a merger of banking and industrial capital) is dumped on to the world market. The rivalry of powerful nationally and at times internationally organised associations of capitalists for command of the market, for the possession or control of territories of weaker countries, i.e., for the exclusive right to oppress them mercilessly, inevitably leads to attempts at partitioning the whole world among the richest capitalist countries, to imperialist wars, which engender universal suffering, ruin, and degeneration."

Here we have too many words, covering up a series of theoretical errors. One cannot speak of "attempts" at dividing up the world, because the world has already been divided up. The war of 1914-17 is not "an attempt at partitioning" the world, but a struggle for the re-partitioning of a world already divided. The war became inevitable for capitalism, because a few years before it imperialism divided up the world according to yardsticks of strength now out of date, and which are being "corrected" by the war.

The struggle for colonies (for "new lands"), and the struggle for "the possession of territories of weaker countries", all existed before imperialism. Modern imperialism is characterised by something else, namely, by the fact that at the beginning of the twentieth century the whole earth was divided up and occupied by various countries. That is why, under capitalism, the re-partitioning of "world domination" could only take place at the price of a world war. "Internationally organised associations of capitalists" existed before imperialism. Every joint-stock company with a membership of capitalists from various countries is an "internationally organised association of capitalists".

The distinguishing feature of imperialism is something quite different, something which did not exist before the twentieth century—the economic partitioning of the world among international trusts, the partitioning of countries, by agreement, into market areas. This particular point has not been expressed in Comrade Sokolnikov's draft, the power of imperialism is, therefore, represented as much weaker than it really is.

Finally, it is theoretically incorrect to speak of dumping a vast accumulation of surplus value on to the world market. This reminds one of Proudhon's theory of realisation, according to which capitalists may easily realise both fixed and variable capital, but find it difficult to realise surplus value. As a matter of fact capitalists cannot realise without difficulties and crises either surplus value or variable and fixed capital. Commodities dumped on to the market are not only accumulated value, but also value reproducing variable capital and fixed capital. For instance, stocks of rails or iron are thrown into the world market, and should be exchanged for articles consumed by the workers, or for other means of production (wood, oil, etc.).