Critique of the Comintern Program - Vladimir Smirnov

Nikolai Bukharin
Nikolai Bukharin (Photo: Hoover Archives)

Part of a letter by the decist Smirnov (addressee unknown). Source used for this translation was Stephen Shenfield's upload: Collection of documents on the Decists

Submitted by Noa Rodman on December 5, 2011


... About the program of the Comintern: Now it is "complemented" by Bukharin's speech at the Congress, and all this together gives such a fragrant bouquet before which every sound revolutionary-communist wants to plug his nose. I agree with almost all of your comments (except for the question of the dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry in underdeveloped countries. To tell you frankly – this question for me is unclear, in any case to declare it obsolete for all the colonial countries would be imprudent, never mind the era of wars and revolutions. Therefore from a more detailed assessment of this issue I will for now refrain. Here I will try to systematize and generalize some objections which suggest themselves at every step. [)]
The entire program is constructed so as not to tie the hands of the present opportunist leadership. This basically, is what characterizes the program, and from this point of view are understandable the couple of left-wing formulations of issues: they have been allowed there, where these left-wing formulations do not disturb the above basic task.
We had the tremendous experience of the proletarian dictatorship. We from
practice know, that the era of dictatorship is the epoch of class struggle. We know again - from experience, how the class struggle under the dictatorship of the proletariat occurs, and how in connection with this must be built the system of dictatorship. It would seem, that this experience should be used for international measure, dropping out of it, of course, all that is the result of particular specific conditions in our country. Nothing of this in the program.
On the eve of the revolution, Lenin publishes his classic work on state and revolution, where with all sharpness he stresses, that the state, even proletarian, is a bourgeois form, that it must be a dying off state, that undoubtedly, speaking with Engels's words, it is necessary to cut off the worst of this evil.
About this in the program is spoken only incidentally. Almost nothing of those special safeguards, that are necessary in order, to create in the period of dictatorship a new type of gradually dying off state (armed workers*, reduction of wages of all officials to the level of workers' wages, abolition of all disbursements of money for representation – to the latter two measures Lenin attached particular importance). Instead of all this there is bare reference to the type of soviet state, without any reference to those bureaucratic distortions of this type, which Lenin emphasized still in 1921, yes and before (when he spoke in 1918 about the increased pay of professionals, that this is a retreat from principles, forced, necessary, but a retreat – apropos the dispute with Bukharin).

*(On this point in the program is spoken so, that you can not tell, what the case is on: the armed forces of the proletarian state, or the arming of workers in the proletarian state.)

The fundamental issue in preserving the proletarian dictatorship - is the correct relation between pariah[party?] and state via the party of the proletariat. Principal - most important is the link with the peasantry (in the program, by the way, everywhere the bukharinist term - "bloc with peasantry") because, when the bond with the peasantry breaks the proletarian dictatorship may die, however the breaking of this state, the state created by victory, with the proletariat, means not only the loss of the proletariat, but also a betrayal in the relation to the proletariat. To this issue was devoted the whole discussion on trade unions, where Lenin had to prove the necessity of a special organization of the proletariat, defending its interests from its own state (as bourgeois form this state will inevitably give bureaucratic distortions) and to protect this state from the class enemy (in so for as this state is a state of proletarian dictatorship). On this (by the way, the controversy on this issue was not only with Trotsky, but also with Bukharin, who gave the position of the supporters at the time of inosculation the "deep" theoretical justification) in the program of the Comintern, again nothing, without counting the vague references to bureaucratic distortions, "sprouting ... on the grounds of a lack of culture of the masses", which, of course, is pure nonsense. The most important and actual international experience of the Russian revolution is thrown overboard - it is clear why: the right formulation of the question about the relation to the proletariat beats at the most vulnerable place of the degenerating state.
From the foregoing follows that the question of the attitude of the working class during the dictatorship of the proletariat is not at all an indifferent matter, that here to reduce to only the phrase about "the self-limitation" of the worker (Bukharin and Preobrazhensky) means to undermine the very roots of this dictatorship. Therefore our program, adopted at the VIII Congress, later discarded, in view of the already accomplished conquest of power, from the minimum program, devoted an entire chapter to the issue of "labor protection and social welfare''. The Comintern program now of all the questions of labor protection leaves only the 7-hour working day, without even specifying that this 7-hour day is the maximum. Here the draft program forgets, that our program even for backward and the war-ravaged country, sets the task of "establishing next with the general increase in labor productivity a maximum 6-hour day without reduction of remuneration for labor and with the obligation of workers moreover to devote two hours per day without special remuneration to the theory of craft and production, to practical training in the technique of government administration and to military art''. The programmatic demand of a 6-hour maximum working day is substituted by the 7-hour stalinist day.
Nothing at all about a reduced working day for underground and hazardous industry, about weekly rest, about prohibition of labor for children and adolescents under 18 ???»»»»»years, about banning labor for women and adolescents up to 18 years in night work and in hazardous industries, about holidays of the workers in general (in our program 1 month with a temporary reduction of it to two weeks due to "extreme devastation, by war and the onslaught of world imperialism"), about special leave for women on the occasion of pregnancy and childbirth, etc. All these points are thrown out of the program, which the present-day opportunists systematically violate. Obviously, from the same considerations, the minimum program is thrown out, although a victorious proletarian revolution has occurred only in the USSR, although Lenin severely scoffed at those who in 1917 on the eve of the seizure of power by the proletariat wanted to discard the minimum program. Again clear: even a program- minimum - demanded of bourgeois society – would in many respects trouble the present-day opportunists. Further, the rejection of nationalization of all land on the grounds that the "abolition of private ownership of land can not be introduced immediately in the most developed (?) capitalist countries''. Absurdity of this assertion is such, that even the plenum of the CC of the German com-party stopped in front of it with disbelief. In fact, even for the strong peasant and farmer, this radical-bourgeois measure can mean only the elimination of the arbitrariness of the landowner in establishing the rent size there, where the farmer was working on leased land and liberate him from bondage of mortgage debt, where he is an owner. But if we recall some conversations, held two or three years ago about the sale into ownership of the land of the state fund with us, then one can find a few real justifications for this failure at that, which the Bolsheviks advanced in 1905, and which was carried out in 1917.
These are the questions, relating to the period of the dictatorship of the proletariat, which are bypassed or blurred in the program of the Comintern. In addition major innovations are introduced.
"In the struggle for the dictatorship of the proletariat and for the subsequent transformation of the social order against the bloc of landlords and capitalists the organizing of a bloc of workers and peasants under the ideological and political hegemony of the first, a bloc, which is the basis of the dictatorship of the proletariat. "
Continuous opportunistic nonsense: the return to the 1905 slogan with the incongruous addition, that this bloc is formed "to fight for the dictatorship proletariat and the subsequent transformation of the social order''. A bloc for this does not go, and Lenin never used this word - he always spoke of a "bond". The term "bloc" belongs to Bukharin. And here no escape with the reference to the words "under the hegemony of the workers" - and in 1905 the matter was about hegemony of the proletariat, and not the peasantry. But about the bond Lenin explained very emphatically: it means the alliance with the peasantry - one, the struggle against it - two. This struggle is necessary and inevitable as much as the transition to socialism means the abolition of the peasantry, as a class (which in the bourgeois program of revolution does not appear), but the supporter of the idea of conservation of the peasantry, as a class, is the kulak, and not the poor peasant (the middle peasant however oscillates between these two groups). What the dispute is about is not words but about the essence of the matter, as is evident from the history of our revolution. During the dictatorship of the proletariat, we fought not in alliance with the peasantry, but in alliance with the poor peasantry. Or were the kombeds in 1918 an alliance with the peasantry? Or are these kombeds according to the opinion of the authors of the program a mistake by the Bolsheviks, a stupidity, which they have made? But this means slipping into SR triteness. To invite the international proletariat to the formation of a bloc of workers and peasants for socialist revolution - this means to destroy the cause of the socialist revolution, to replace the proletarian revolution with the program of petty-bourgeois revolution.
No wonder after this, that NEP is declared the universal type of economy for the transition period, although it is clearly established on the basis of the lack of development of productive forces with us, on the basis of the need of time to develop these forces in capitalist or half-capitalistic forms under the rule of the proletariat until such moments, when a higher level will allow them to discard these capitalist forms. No words, that such a transition process could prove to be necessary for some technically more developed countries, than Russia. But this must be probed in practice, and not declared an immutable principle for all countries. Yes and the form of NEP could be different. "Exchange at local scale'' - is one thing, the natural exchange of industrial products for farm products - this is another, cash circulation and economic accounting at public enterprises - a third. Lenin always stressed the serious difference between these types of NEP. Bukharin throws all this on one pile and portrays it as the universal and only way to socialism. I already am not talking about the defamed "war communism", about which even Varga managed to say something sensible.
Such is the treacherous-opportunistic interpretation of the question of transition period in Bukharin's draft. Turning now to the question of the assessment of the prospects of world revolution and the tactics of the Comintern, it is necessary to look simultaneously at the draft program and Bukharin's speech: The latter elaborates, what in the draft is said with hints. Yes, and the interpretation which the author gives to the by him written document (although his signature was not placed there), sometimes no less important than the document itself.
Even in the discussion sheet of "Pravda'' (№ 6) is noted, that the program provides an analysis of imperialism not as one of the phases (and moreover decadent) of capitalism, which therefore preserves with force the fundamental laws of capitalism, but as a special form, as "pure imperialism''. Remember, that about this there was already a dispute of Bukharin with Lenin apropos the program of the VKP, and that Bukharin still in his "Economics of the transition period" stated, that "finance capital destroyed the anarchy of production in the large capitalist countries" (literally so). This idea of a bourgeois state-class, which he slightly concealed in the draft program, he developed fully in his speech to the congress and directly linked it with the question of stabilization.
Capitalism is experiencing a new era - that is the disguised thought in the draft program and the open central thought of Bukharin's speech. Imperialism – that is the organization of capitalist production in state-capitalist trusts. Capitalism in recent years, reorganized on this basis, to a considerable degree overcame internal contradictions – from this Bukharin proceeds. "If we consider the Chinese revolution as a trifle, as the social-democrats do - he says, - then of course, there is no serious crisis of capitalism. If the USSR did not exist, then again, there is no crisis of capitalism". The crisis of capitalism, if we do not consider contradictions between states, is eliminated. And in connection with this he declares: "these determinations (i.e., that the stabilization of capitalism is partial, temporary, etc.) now have a meaning slightly different, than before (italic by Bukharin). And if he still calls the stabilization "relative", then totally "not from that standpoint, that in one, a second, a third country capitalism stands in a state of immediate collapse'', but from the standpoint of "the general relation of all countries in the frame of the world economy", i.e. international contradictions. Inside each country itself capitalism managed to make a "technical revolution" and moreover the transition to state-capitalist forms, to organized production.
Furthermore, with these states trusts, according to Bukharin, managed to create serious elements of class peace between the proletariat and bourgeoisie. "Stabilization allows improvement of the material position of some sections of the proletariat ", he says, and with this finds an explanation further of social democracy, thanks to which "state-capitalist trusts" can seize in their hands the union organization of the proletariat, turning them into government agencies.
The corruption by the bourgeoisie of the elite of the proletariat - not a new thing. Already Lenin noted at the time the bribery of this top at the expense of the exploitation and plunder of the colonies. But Bukharin considers it necessary to "deepen" Lenin. "The economic basis of reformism," he annunciates, "is served not only by superprofits, obtained from the colonies, but also superprofits obtained by international trade, generally based on the export of capital not only [in] "their colonies, and not only in the colonies generally, etc." (Bukharin's italics). And here then he refers to Marx, who "analyzed a whole number of cases [where] the big industrial countries with a large proportion in the global economy get a differential rent due to the superiority of their technique" (italics mine). ''And these profits'', he adds, "played a huge role in most recent times". This "deepening" deserves to be paused at. Lenin said that the bourgeoisie was capable to a certain degree and time to make peace between the classes due to plunder of the colonies and backward countries, but for this they pay wars for the redistribution of the world, accompanied by a sharp aggravation of contradictions within every large capitalist country. For Bukharin it turns out that these profits are obtained simply as a result of higher technology of the advanced countries, that it does not need "their colonies, and even colonies in general''. Class peace is ensured not by plunder of the colonies, but technical progress. If at the beginning of his speech, Bukharin claimed that the capitalists made within individual countries, a strong stabilization, which is threatened only by the danger of international complications, then now this limitation further is limited. Why are capitalist countries fighting for colonies among themselves - they need only continue to be ahead with their technique of the backward countries. And this is taken care by the "law of uneven development of capitalism". And actually talking "for decency" about "interstate contradictions", he immediately throws them to the side: "In the motley change of relations between states", he says, "... runs the red thread of a basic tendency – the grouping forces against the USSR... Consistent with this we must build our tactics".
The imperialist world is not threatened by war between the capitalist giants, it needs only a united front to keep the obedience or ''respect" of less advanced countries and especially the USSR, which seceded from imperialist exploitation by the monopoly of foreign trade. How is this different from the theory of ultra-imperialism, which Bukharin distances himself from with words, and which after all consists in the fact that imperialism represents still a "new era", on the basis of state organized capital, if the subordination to its influence is possible of "backward races''? By exactly nothing, except that instead of "backward races" Bukharin speaks about the "oppressed nations", and instead of a "new era" of "a somewhat different character of stabilization''. Kautsky can celebrate: his treacherous theory of ultra-imperialism is recognized from the podium of the VI Congress of the Comintern.
Which political conclusion follows from this? Only this, that the heart of the matter under these conditions lies not with the class struggle of the proletariat of the advanced countries, but in the defense of backward countries from exploitation by the advanced. This conclusion Bukharin makes: "We will envelop the broad mass of the working-class of West-European countries'', he says in the concluding section of his report, "we subject to our influence the workers' movement in the large capitalist states and can link them with the really powerful and historically important movement of the oppressed peoples''.
Not a socialist revolution in the advanced countries, but war of liberation of the "global countryside" against the "world city" (see draft program) with the USSR at the head of this "global village" - this is what Bukharin dangles for. And the Comintern provides "the linking" with this war, "of the labor movement in the major capitalist states''. All questions are opportunistically put on their head.
Not the proletariat leads the oppressed peoples of the underdeveloped countries, but these oppressed peoples in their defense suck the proletariat of the advanced countries in the socialist revolution. USSR - not the first division of the world proletariat, which set back its bourgeoisie, but the leader of the oppressed nations in their struggle against the advanced capitalist countries. This is how is developed on a global scale the theory of "bloc of the workers and peasants''! In this global scale disappears also the word about hegemony of the proletariat!
Needless to say, the conception is completed! Capitalism entered again a phase of reconstruction, based on the planned-capitalist economy. It possesses the resources - in the form of its technical superiority over other countries - that allows it to corrupt the proletariat. The proletariat of the advanced countries is deleted from the list of major revolutionary forces - in the best case, it is suitable as a help. Contradictions between the ''state trusts" can be prevented by common joint struggle against the USSR and less developed countries. Hence, the desperate howl: defense, relying on the backward countries, and decompose, as much as possible, these terrible advanced countries by means of "subjection to our influence of the workers movement in them". Defense, and with sin manage to go into offensive.
You very correctly pointed out, - and I at the beginning did not pay much attention, - a new scheme for development of world revolution in the draft program. Not successive waves of revolution in the capitalist countries, but a single revolution now in one country, then in another - depending on where this adventitious offensive is possible - with successive addition of them to the territory of the coalition of the oppressed countries with the USSR as head - gradual conquest of the capitalist world from the periphery. All this is quite "linked" with all the rest of Bukharin's conception.
One question remains: how durable is this by Bukharin preached coalition of the "global village". The strength of this is very doubtful.
Bukharin brings down anger at Social Democracy and demands turning the relation with her. What is social-democracy - scum – this is certain, and not we, of course, will defend it. But from where Bukharin specifically now took this rage?
Not because social democracy mislead the proletariat before the face of world war. "Social-democracy of August 4 1914" - he says – "is only an embryonic nucleus of modern social democracy." Not because she shot revolutionary workers - about this in his speech, he did not
remind. His anger is aroused by Hilferding's thesis that "it would be better if the Soviet Union was embroiled in the common complex of capitalist countries". "The practical expression of this formulation of mister Hilferding'', Bukharin said, "means nothing more than a war against the USSR. Of course, such an evolution of social-democracy was bound to cause appropriate response from our side. To all comrades it is known, that last enlarged plenum of the ECCI outlined a tactical change in the politics of the French and British party and, to some degree (?), on a general scale".
That is what motivates Bukharin's left turn in the politics of the Comintern. When the British General Council twice betrayed the English proletariat – at the time of the general strike and the miners' strike - then you could sit next to these traitors carrying to their address an approving resolution.
Only because on that occasion, that General Council had promised to fight against intervention. Turn away from social-democracy and its variants was necessary only when this social democracy began to speak out against USSR. It goes without saying - this is a great abomination, but the betrayal of the proletariat - no less of an abomination, and if that betrayal at the time did not cause a turn, then involuntarily the question is given: And what if under the influence of one or other international combination social democracy of one or another country - Germany, for example - once again changed its western orientation to the East? Will not Bukharin then give her for this his "global countryside" just as he gave the English proletariat to the General Council in 1926? And is not in this case the reservation made about the fact that the turn "on a general scale" is outlined only "to some degree'', although the degree of abomination of social-democracy is the same in all countries?
No, a coalition of the "global village" is an unstable thing, if it is not headed by the proletariat. Revisionist-opportunist trash of Bukharin should be discarded like a worthless rag. Our basic interest - not to the backward countries, but the proletariat of the advanced countries. Our analysis, we must carry out not in order to develop innovations with suspicious properties, but in order to find that point in the capitalist world, where the contradictions of class interests are woven into the most intractable knot. Such a point is Europe, which now after the war is exploited by America, the bourgeoisie of which must give its superprofit from looting backward countries to this new lender. Here the class contradictions are aggravated more and more, regardless of all of Bukharin's dithyrambs of a "reconstruction period" of capitalism. From here starts a new wave of revolution, which will draw into its orbit also the liberation movement of colonial countries. And before this prospect every true proletarian revolutionary must consider on this, that for those who want to tie this revolution in Europe to the tail of the "global village", who renewed the exile of communists in the USSR, who just the other day "complemented" this shameful act by outright turning to the side of the petty bourgeoisie in economic policies - that for those people there would be no place in the Communist International.

14 August 1928
Tobolsk District, V. Smirnov


Jacob Richter

12 years 3 months ago

In reply to by

Submitted by Jacob Richter on February 12, 2012

Hmmm. Unlike Trotsky's critique of the Draft Program of the Comintern ("The Third International After Lenin"), this one seems to criticize the final document itself found on MIA.