Marxism and Russia

( «II Programma Comunista», Nr. 21, 1957. Issued in English in «Communist Program» Nr. 3; May 1977 )

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«Marxism and Russia», which is a concentrated analysis and synthesis of the work our party has devoted to the study of Russia, was written in 1957 (1) on the fortieth anniversary of the October Revolution. It, however, goes far beyond a commemoration, and this is due to its very method: far from seeing Russia as a local and isolated question, it places it and analyzes it in a historical and international framework and perspective.

Only in this framework and this perspective is it possible to understand not only the revolution in Russia but the counter-revolution as well. Moreover it is because of a lack of this viewpoint, or a loss of it, that many people have seen an «enigma» in Russian history which they have sought to resolve in every conceivable kind of way. First we see Gramsci who in 1917 naively believed that the Bolsheviks had carried out the «revolution against Das Kapital», without realizing that he thus took up the Menshevik position proclaiming the seizure of power in Russia to be «anti-Marxist», and without realizing either that his position was a forerunner of the Stalinist pretension of constructing socialism in one country, and a backward country at that. Then there are those who discovered the «caste», then the «bureaucratic class», or even the «revisionist clique», some believing to see socialism in the Russian relations of production but deploring the absence of democracy or of «humanity» in the political and social relations, others believing to have discovered a new mode of production there – one which is «state-run» or else «bureaucratic» – a mode of production unforeseen by a Marxism that is consequently claimed to be antiquated.

Even Trotsky did not always succeed in placing the Russian question in its global context. In speaking of his struggle for the permanent revolution, our thesis is not referring to Trotsky’s confused opposition to Lenin in 1903-1907, but instead to his struggle in the years 1924–1928 for the international permanence of the revolution, that is the struggle of the Left Opposition – and finally of the entire old Bolshevik guard – to maintain the international perspective of Soviet power. This struggle was wholeheartedly supported by the Communist Left of Italy and we fully claim it as our own today even if we could not accept, from the very first, all the arguments advanced by Trotsky or, with all the more reason today, the development these arguments later followed.

Even though Trotsky fought fiercely to save the international aims of the Russian Revolution, something which he knew to be fundamental, he was unable to follow this to the end and to recognize that what made the October Revolution a true proletarian conquest was fundamentally its character as the vanguard battle of the international struggle for Communism. He failed to see that from the moment when the Russian state «renounced» its mission in service to the world revolution, and thus to the goals of revolutionary Marxism, it lost all of its proletarian character, and that from this point on, since no feudal restoration threatened the bourgeois democratic conquests of October, the proletariat no longer had ANYTHING to defend in Russia. In short, in spite of Trotsky’s unswerving struggle for internationalism, his incapacity to break completely with the Russian state led him to fall back, to lose the historical and international perspective; thus on the one hand this led him to understand the Russian events less and less, and on the other caused him to contribute – through false theorizations as well as through the «frontism» with the USSR and the C.P.’s – to the disarray and disorganization of the proletarian vanguard.

To re-establish the historical and international framework and perspective of the October Revolution, it was first necessary to clarify the history of Russia up to present time and, just as it was necessary for the Marxists of a century ago, «to refute the fallacious position according to which the deductions of historical materialism could not be applied to Russia». We said in 1951 in «Lessons of the Counter- Revolutions» that «the analysis of the counter-revolution in Russia [...] is not a central problem for the strategy of the proletarian movement in the renewal of the struggle we are expecting» (2); this is precisely because this analysis, far from providing some kind of revelation or pretended discovery, could only be soundly undertaken on the basis of a Marxism that has been restored in its entirety. We have therefore demonstrated that our doctrine explains the history of the counterrevolution as well as that of the revolution; that our material defeat under the blows of the world counter-revolution, the consequences of which we still suffer from, was accompanied by a theoretical victory; and that far from revealing «errors» or even «insufficiencies» in Marxism, history has instead completely confirmed it. But this explanation and this confirmation go far beyond the «Russian problem» and the study of the past: they imply the perspective of the future international revolutionary upsurge.

It is towards this «new flare-up of the permanent revolution seen in the international perspective» that we have directed our study of the Russian events as well as all of our activities. And it is for this reason, that this work has not commemorated the past forty years of the triumph of the counter-revolution, but the twenty years to come of revolutionary preparation and their culmination. We must recognize that our prediction as to the length of time separating us from this conflagration – a prediction which had seemed excessively pessimistic to those who wished at all costs to see the revolution in the smallest social disturbances and desperately expected it from one day to the next – this prediction was still too optimistic.

If the first general crisis of world capitalism since World War II, marking the end of the post-war period of expansion, has actually occurred in 1975 – that is to say, very near the time we had predicted in 1957 – it is far from having the expected consequences. What has occurred is just a tremor preliminary to the earthquake. The political crisis, that is to say the development of significant class struggles of the proletariat and the return of proletarian groups to Marxist positions, still lags behind the economic crisis.

This fact, as we have explained in «Once Again on Crisis and Revolution» (3), does not however constitute a negation of our forecast of 1957, which in any case did not pretend to mathematically calculate the date of the revolution. Its objective was rather to set a minimum delay before which it would be illusory to expect a general renewal of the proletarian struggle. For after the complete destruction of the proletariat’s class movement through the work of the counterrevolution, Stalinism and its aftermath, and through the proletariat’s participation in the second Imperialist War, in the reconstruction and in the world-wide development of capitalism, it had become necessary first of alt for an economic crisis to materially break the collaboration between classes before such a renewal of the struggle and a return to Marxist positions could be possible.

But at the same time that our text opposed itself to an activist voluntarism which in the hope of «forcing» and «accelerating» history seeks tactical expedients which in the end lead to opposite results, at the same time that it recalled this objective condition and this minimum delay, it also opposed itself to a fatalist pacifism and recalled the subjective conditions for a victorious revolutionary struggle: the theoretical, and organizational restoration – well before the renewal of the struggle – of a world communist party, a party which to the great indignation of the democrats of all stripes «does not hesitate to propose its own dictatorship».

The evaluation of the Russian events therefore must organically lead to a call for the preparation of the revolution and consequently for the preparation of the party of the revolution. And this is also how we must understand the statement that if the next historical wave of the revolution does not lead to a victory in Europe «the last Marxist will have disappeared». This does not mean that the history of humanity will stop there. Neither does it mean simply that an unprecedented repression will exterminate us up to the last. Such a repression would be the penalty for the incapacity exhibited on our part. This eventuality would therefore signify a terrible statement of the impotency and the failure of our movement, which would find itself historically «disqualified», and consequently would signify a rupture in the continuity of the communist movement which would be much more severe than that resulting from the defeat of the previous revolutionary wave.

This harsh warning therefore reminds us of our tasks and responsibilities. It is today that we must prepare the revolution of tomorrow, we must profit from the relative delay of the social crisis in order to make up for the still greater delay of our preparation. This warning must remind us that we must do all we possibly can to reinforce the party and to link it solidly to the vanguard of the working class. This we must do without voluntarism but with an inflexible will, without activism but with an untiring activity, both based on the principles of revolutionary communism.



(1) It was originally published in no. 21/1957 of our Italian language newspaper II Programma Comunista under the title «Quarant’anni di una organica valutazione degli eventi di Russia nel drammatico svolgimento sociale e storico internazionale».

(2) «Leçons des contre-révolutions», Programme Communiste no. 63, p. 12.

(3) Communist Program no. 1, October 1975.





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Marxism and Russia



A. Russia versus Europe in the 19th Century


1. The objective of one of the first battles waged by Marxist socialists in regard to the «role» of Russia in European politics was to refute the fallacious position according to which the deductions of historical materialism could not be applied to Russia. The universally valid social deductions which Marxist internationalism drew from its study of the first capitalism, England, were generalized and applied to France, Germany and the United States. Our school never doubted that in Russia the same key would open that door which had seemed to be closed forever in the face of bourgeois society with the rout of Napoleon’s bayonets, an event which retarded historical development for a century.


2. For Russia just as for the other European countries, Marxism expected and urged the great Russian bourgeois revolution which would follow the path of the English and French revolutions, just as the one in 1848 which inflamed and shook all of Central Europe. Marx ardently expected, awaited and advocated the upheaval of the feudal mode of production in Russia, all the more so because in his eyes the land of the Tsar played the role of the bulwark of anti-liberal and anti-capitalist reaction in Europe. In the period of wars aiming at the constitution of bourgeois national states in Europe, a period which ended in 1871, each war was appraised by Marxism according to its ability to bring about a defeat and disaster to St. Petersburg. And for this position Marx was even accused of being an agent of anti-Russian pan-Germanism! For him, as long as Tsarism stood it would constitute a barrier not only to the bourgeois revolutionary wave, but also to that which would follow, the wave of the European proletarian revolution; and the First International gave its total support to the liberation movements of the nationalities oppressed by the Tsar, as is shown by the classical example of Poland.


3. In the historical doctrine of Marxism, the period in which socialists supported wars for the constitution of modern states, struggles for national liberation, and liberal revolutions closes for Europe in 1871. On the horizon stood the obstacle of Russia which as long as it remained would always bar the route of the proletarian insurrection against «the confederated national armies», sending its Cossacks to defend not only Holy Empires, but the capitalist parliamentary democracies as well, whose cycle of development in the West had been completed.


4. Marxism concerned itself with the social questions of Russia very early, studying its economic structure and the development of class contradictions. This did not mean that it was not necessary to take into account, in the first place, the international balance of power in order to determine the cycle of social revolutions such as Marx did in his tremendous construction on the stages of the revolution, the conditions of which, as regards the maturity of the social structure, manifest themselves precisely on the international scale. Immediately, therefore, a question is posed: was it possible to shorten the historical development in Russia, which had not yet reached the level attained by Europe at the beginning of the 19th Century and in 1848? Marx answered this question in 1877 in a letter to a periodical and in 1882 in the preface to Plekhanov’s translation of the Communist Manifesto in Russian. Was it possible for Russia to leap over the capitalist mode of production? The answer to this last question was in part positive: yes, «if the Russian revolution becomes the signal for a proletarian revolution in the West, so that both [revolutions] complement each other» (1). But in his first answer (1877), pointing to the bourgeois agrarian reform of 1861 and the abolition of serfdom (a reform which Bakunin, harshly criticized by Marx and Engels, had praised but which instead signified the final dissolution of the primitive communism of the Russian village) Marx said that this possibility was already in the course of being lost: «If Russia continues to walk along the path it has followed since 1861, it will lose the best chance history has ever offered a people and will suffer all the fatal vicissitudes of the capitalist regime [...] once it has entered the womb of the capitalist regime it will suffer its ruthless laws, as other peoples have» (2). That is all, Marx bluntly concludes. And that, effectively, was all – with the failure and betrayal of the proletarian revolution in Europe, present-day Russia has fallen into capitalist barbarism. Some writings of Engels on the old rural Russian commune (the Mir) show that in 1875 and still more in 1894 (3) the upper hand seemed to have been won for the capitalist mode of production which from then on dominated the cities and, in part, the Russian countryside, and all this under Tsarist rule.


5. Along with capitalist industry which in Russia was born from direct state investments rather than from a primitive accumulation, there appeared the urban proletariat and the Marxist working-class party. Like the first Marxists in Germany before 1848, this party was confronted with the problem of the double revolution. Its theoretical positions, represented in the first period by Plekhanov and then by Lenin and the Bolsheviks, are in full accord with European and international Marxism, most importantly on the agrarian question which is of prime importance in Russia. In this double revolution, what will be the contribution of the rural classes, of the extremely impoverished serfs and peasants who legally have been emancipated but whose conditions of life have grown worse than those they knew under feudalism proper? Throughout the world, the serfs and small peasants supported the bourgeois revolutions and revolted against the privileges of the landed nobility. In Russia, the feudal mode presented the particularity of not being centrifugal as had been the case in Europe and in particular in Germany. The central state power and the national army itself had been centralized in Russia for several centuries, which, up to the 19th Century, was a historically progressive condition. This centralization had been established not only on the political level – as concerns the origin of the army, the monarchy and the state, whose forms were imported from outside Russia – but also on the level of the social structure. The state and the Crown (and certain religious institutions which were no less centralized) owned more land and serfs than the feudal nobility. From this fact comes the Marxist definition of Russia as state feudalism, a state feudalism which so well withstood the attacks of the French democratic army that Marx for years went as far as to call upon the intervention of European, Turkish and German armies to destroy it.

In short, the passage from state feudalism to state capitalism in Russia proved to be shorter than the European passage from molecular feudalism to centralized capitalist states and from the first autonomous capitalism to a concentrated and imperialist capitalism.



B. The perspectives of the demise of the last feudalism


6. These age-old forms explain why a bourgeois class comparable in strength to the Western bourgeoisies never formed in Russia. Consequently the grafting of the proletarian revolution onto the bourgeois revolution as Marxists expected seemed to be even more difficult in Russia than in Germany. Approaching the problem of the weakness of the German revolutionary tradition which, contrary to what occurred in England, was completely exhausted in the religious reformation, Engels retraced the peasants’ historic war of 1525 and their terrible defeat that resulted from the cowardice of the urban bourgeoisie, the reformed clergy and also the small nobility. In Russia, where the bourgeois class was politically absent, as was the small nobility, and where a rebellious clergy was lacking, could the task of the bourgeoisie be fulfilled instead by the peasantry? Such was the first point on which Marxists entered into struggle, both theoretically and practically, against all the other parties. According to the historical scheme of our adversaries, the Russian Revolution would be neither proletarian nor bourgeois, but peasant. As for us, we defined the peasant revolution as simply the other side of the urban bourgeois revolution. In the course of a century of polemics and class wars, Marxism never ceased to take exception to the monstrous perspective of a «peasant socialism». Our adversaries pretended that in Russia such a socialism would rise out of a movement of small peasants for a utopian egalitarian division of the land; the impotence of the bourgeoisie and the factor of a young proletariat would, according to them, allow the poor peasantry to take state control instead of the urban classes. They did not reckon with the formidable energy which the Russian working class drew from its position as a section of the European proletariat. The bourgeoisie is born as a national class and does not transfer energy to itself beyond borders. But the proletariat is born as an international class and as a class participates in all «foreign» revolutions. As for the peasantry, it does not even attain the national level.

It is on these foundations that Lenin elaborated the Marxist doctrine of the Russian Revolution in which, setting aside the indigenous bourgeoisie and the peasantry, he assigned the principal role to the proletariat.

This subject is developed in our text Russia and Revolution in the Marxist Theory (4).


7. There are two great questions of the Russian revolution: the agrarian question and the political question. In regard to the first, the Social Revolutionary Populists were for the division of the land, the Mensheviks for municipalization, and the Bolsheviks for nationalization. All these platforms, according to Lenin, are those of a bourgeois democratic revolution, not a socialist one. Yet the third one is the most advanced and creates the best conditions for proletarian communism. Let us once again cite Lenin: «The idea of nationalization of the land is then a category belonging to the mercantile and capitalist society». In the Russia of today, only that part of agriculture organized into sovkhoses, which is the smallest part, is at this stage; the rest is still more backward.

As regards the question of power, the Mensheviks held the position of allowing the bourgeoisie to seize power and then of passing into the opposition – and in 1917 they collaborated in the government alongside the bourgeoisie. The populists were for an illusory peasant government – with Kerensky they ended up doing the same as the Mensheviks. The Bolsheviks were for seizing power and establishing a democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry. The adjective «democratic» and the noun «peasantry» are explained by the following words of Lenin: «Such a victory will not yet by any means transform our bourgeois revolution into a socialist revolution»; «the social and economic reforms that have become a necessity for Russia do not in themselves imply the undermining of capitalism [...] on the contrary, they will for the first time really clear the ground for a wide and rapid European, and not Asiatic, development of capitalism»; «such a victory will enable us to rouse Europe; after throwing off the yoke of the bourgeoisie, the socialist proletariat of Europe will in its turn help us to accomplish a socialist revolution» (5).

How then are we going to deal with the peasant «allies»? Lenin’s response is just as clear. Marx had said that the peasants are «the natural allies of the bourgeoisie». Lenin writes: «[in the genuine and decisive struggle for socialism] the peasantry, as a landowning class, will play the same treacherous, instable part as is now being played by the bourgeoisie in the struggle for democracy» (6).

As we have shown at the end of Russia and Revolution in the Marxist Theory (7), Lenin’s program was the seizure of power and dictatorship by the proletariat in the bourgeois revolution, against the bourgeoisie itself and with the support of the peasants alone. He supported this with two arguments: first of all the necessity of realizing the proletarian revolution in Europe, a condition without which socialism could not be victorious in Russia; and secondly the necessity of avoiding a Tsarist restoration which would mean the restoration of the White Guard of Europe.



C. The unforgettable Russian epic of the world proletarian revolution


8. In 1914 the war Marx had foreseen between Germany and a coalition of the Latin and Slavic races broke out, and as he had predicted the Russian Revolution arose out of the Tsar’s defeats.

Russia was then allied with the democratic powers of France, England and Italy. The capitalists and the democrats, as well as the renegade socialists who had embraced the cause of the anti-German war, considered that the Tsar had become an enemy to overthrow because they thought he was incapable of conducting the war or else because they suspected him of secretly preparing an alliance with the Germans. For these reasons the first Russian Revolution, that of February 1917, was welcomed with the applause of all patriots, democrats as well as socialists, who attributed it less to the fact that the masses and in particular the soldiers could endure no more, than to the clever manoeuvres of the allied embassies. Although not having in their majority supported the war, the right-wing Russian socialists immediately turned towards the creation of a provisional government which would continue the war in alliance with the foreign powers, and it is on this basis that they laid down a compromise with the bourgeois parties.

With hesitations at first, then wholeheartedly after the return of Lenin and the Bolshevik leaders in 1917 and with Trotsky’s total support, the Bolshevik party set itself to the task of overthrowing this government that was supported by the Mensheviks and the Populists.

In our work on The Economic and Social Structure of Russia Today (8), particularly in the first part, we made use of the documents of the period in order to demonstrate the historical facts which led to the second revolution, that of October, the 40eth anniversary of which is being celebrated today. In this work we viewed the struggle for power in 1917 in the light of the doctrinal questions which had previously appeared in the party’s life.


9. The conquest of power by the Communist Party was manifested in the defeat in the civil war of all other parties, bourgeois as well as the so-called workers and peasant parties, who supported Russia’s continuation of the war on the side of the allies. This conquest was completed by the following: the defeat of these parties in front of the Bolsheviks in the All-Russian Soviet, which was a continuation of the defeat suffered in the street-battle by them along with their allies outside the soviets; the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly that had been convoked by the Provisional Government; and finally the Bolsheviks’ rupture with their last ally, the Left Social-Revolutionaries, who had a strong influence in the countryside and who supported the Holy War against the Germans.

This gigantic turn in history did not take place without serious struggles within the party and it was historically concluded only after four years of a devastating war that ended with the defeat of the counter-revolutionary armies drawn from three camps: the forces of the feudal nobility and the monarchy; the forces which Germany had roused up in 1918 both before and after the Brest-Litovsk peace; and finally the forces, among them the Polish army, which had been mobilized with the greatest zeal by the democratic powers.

During this time, in the European countries, there was only an unsuccessful series of attempts to seize power by the working class which was ardently in solidarity with the Bolshevik Revolution. The decisive event was essentially the defeat of the German Communists in January 1919, after the military defeat of Germany and the fall of the Kaiser. This was the first serious rupture in the historical progression of events envisioned by Lenin which up until then was magnificently realized, especially with the Bolsheviks’ acceptance of peace in March 1918, a decisive step which the democratic world stupidly qualified as treason. The following years would confirm that the Russian economy, fallen into a terrible disorganization, did not receive the aid of a victorious proletariat. Later on in Russia power was firmly defended and preserved; but already it was no longer possible to settle the economic and social question in Russia according to the perspective of all Marxists, that is to say by the dictatorship of the international communist party over the productive forces which, in Europe, remained over abundant even after the war.


10. Lenin had always denied – and he denied it up to his death as did true Marxist Bolsheviks – that the Russian social structure could be transformed to the point of taking on socialist characteristics if the Russian Revolution did not spread to Europe and therefore if the European economy remained capitalist. That did not prevent him from always insisting that in Russia power must be seized and held under a dictatorial form by the party of the proletariat supported by the peasants. Two historical questions pose themselves. First of all, can one define as socialist a revolution which, as Lenin had predicted, creates a power which is obliged, since new international victories have not yet come, to govern social forms of private economy while waiting for these victories? And secondly how long can one admit that such a situation can last, and were there other possible outcomes than an open political counter-revolution and the return to power of an undisguised national bourgeoisie?

For us, October was socialist. But in the absence of a military victory of the counter-revolution two possibilities, not one, remained open: either the apparatus of power (the state and the party) would degenerate from within and adapt itself to the administration of capitalist forms while openly renouncing its wait and expectation of the world revolution (this is what actually happened); or the Marxist party would maintain itself in power for a long period, devoting itself expressly to supporting the revolutionary proletarian struggle in all foreign countries and declaring with the same courage as Lenin that the social forms remained largely capitalist (and even pre-capitalist) in Russia.

It is necessary to first deal with this first question. The second is linked to an examination of the present day Russian social structure which is falsely presented as socialist.


11. The October Revolution must not be considered in the first place from the perspective of immediate or very rapid transformations of the forms of production and economic structure, but instead as a phase of the international political struggle of the proletariat. It presented in effect a series of important features which totally cross the limits of a national and purely anti-feudal revolution and which are not simply limited to the fact that it was led by a proletarian party.

a) Lenin had shown that the European and World War would have an imperialist character «for Russia included» and that the proletarian party must consequently openly practice defeatism, as it had done in the Russo-Japanese War which provoked the outbreak of the struggles of 1905. This was so not because the Russian state was not a democratic one but because of the same reasons that dictated the same duty to all the socialist parties in other countries. The development of the capitalist and industrial economy in Russia was insufficient to furnish a base for socialism, but it was sufficient to give an imperialist character to the war. The traitors to revolutionary socialism who had espoused the cause of the imperialist brigands under the pretext of defending a democracy elevated to the rank of an absolute – here against the German danger, there against the Russian danger – disavowed the Bolsheviks for putting an end to the war and for liquidating the war alliances, and tried to stab the October Revolution. But in spite of them the October Revolution triumphed over war and world imperialism and this was a purely proletarian and communist conquest.

b) In defeating these renegades October took up the forgotten principles of the revolution and restored the Marxist doctrine of which they plotted the ruin. For all nations it showed the way of victory over the bourgeoisie: the use of violence and revolutionary terror, the contempt of democratic «guarantees», the unlimited use of that essential Marxist principle, the dictatorship of the working class exercised by the Communist Party. It forever abandoned to their own imbecility those who see in the dictatorship the power of one man, and for all the more reason those who, dreading this tyranny as do all the democratic prostitutes, admit only the power of an amorphous and unorganized class, a class that is not constituted into a political party such as our texts have openly declared for a century.

c) Although the working class seems to appear on the political scene, or even worse on the parliamentary scene, divided into several parties, the never denied lesson of October showed that the revolutionary way cannot mean the exercise of power in common with all these servants of capitalism but instead it requires their violent liquidation, one after the other, until total power is held by the single party.

The importance of the three above points resides in the fact that precisely in Russia an exception in regard to the developed bourgeois countries could perhaps be accounted for by reason of a particular historical condition – the survival of medieval despotism. But either to the horror or the applause of the world, what the Russian way confirmed was instead the only and universal way laid down by the universal Marxist doctrine from which neither Lenin, nor with him that admirable Bolshevik party, ever deviated for one moment, either in thought or in action.

And who exploits these great names? It is they who in excusing the ways which Russia was «obliged» to take because of pretendedly particular circumstances and local conditions, reveal the disgusting shame that is aroused in them by these great names which they make a big show of praising. It is the people who – as if it was their mission, as if they only had the power – assure us or allow the possibility that the other countries will attain socialism by different ways, by national ways each one different from the other. And these ways have been paved through their betrayal and their infamy with all the slime that could be found in the opportunist cesspool: liberty, democracy, pacifism, co-existence and competition. What a disgusting spectacle!

For Lenin, the revolution in the West was the oxygen that was indispensable for socialism in Russia. For those gentlemen who parade in front of Lenin’s stupid mausoleum on November 7th, oxygen is that capitalism should continue to feast in the rest of the world so that they can continue to co-exist and fornicate with it.



D. The grim course of a truncated revolution


12. The second question to examine was that of Russia’s economic structure at the time of the October victory. The groundwork of the question was established by Lenin in some of his basic writings, which we consulted and made extensive reference to, not contenting ourselves with some out-of-context quotations which can be introduced in short and general articles, but placing all his statements in relation to the historical conditions and to the relations of power seen in their historical development.

In the Russian Revolution, as it was a «double revolution», three historical modes of production were set on the stage, just as in pre-1848 Germany where the classic Marxist analysis recognized three contending forces: the medieval aristocratic-military empire, the capitalist bourgeoisie, and the proletariat – in other words serfdom, wage labor, and socialism. The industrial development of Germany was limited then, in quantity if not in quality, but if Marx introduced the third player (the proletariat) it was because the technical-economic conditions of the third mode of production already fully existed in England while the political conditions seemed present in France. On the European scale a socialist perspective did exist. The idea of a rapid fall of the absolutist power in Germany in favor of the bourgeoisie and of a subsequent attack of the young proletariat against the latter was linked to the possibility of a proletarian victory in France where, after the fall of the bourgeois monarchy in 1831, the Parisian and provincial proletariat was to engage in a courageous battle which it unfortunately lost.

Great revolutionary visions are fertile even when history postpones their realization. In Marx’s perspective, France was to have given the political basis with the establishment of a proletarian dictatorship in Paris, as was attempted in 1831 and 1848 and as was accomplished in 1871, afterwards perishing gloriously one more time with arms in hand. England was to have given the economic basis. Germany was to have given the doctrine, the same doctrine which Leon Trotsky referred to in taking up for Russia the classic expression of the revolution in permanence. But for Marx as for Trotsky, the permanence of the revolution can only be realized on the international scale, not on the miserable scale of the nation. In their ideological terrorism, the Stalinists condemned the permanent revolution – but it was they who mimicked it in an empty parody, dirtied with patriotism.

In Lenin’s perspective (and with all of us following him) revolutionary Russia – industrially as backwards as Germany in 1848 – was in 1917 to hold up the flame of political victory and relight in all its splendor that doctrine which had grown in strength in Europe and the world. Defeated Germany would have furnished the productive forces, the economic potential. The rest of tumultuous Central Europe would have followed. A second wave was to have submerged the «victors» of France, Italy (where we hoped in vain to see the revolution as early as 1919), England, the United States, and Japan.

But in the central European and Russian nucleus, the development of the productive forces in the direction of a socialist mode of production was not to have encountered obstacles and was to only have needed the dictatorship of the Communist parties.


13. In this short outline of the results of our work we must now consider the other possible outcome, that of Russia remaining all alone with its brilliant political victory in hand. This would have been a situation of enormous advantage in relation to 1848 when all the nations that engaged in the struggle remained under capitalist rule, with Germany more backwards still.

Let us recall the principal features of Lenin’s home policy in the expectation of a revolution in the West. In industry it was the control of production and later, management by the state: this would signify the destruction of the private bourgeoisie and therefore political victory for the proletariat, but on the other hand it would be an economic administration within the framework of a mercantile and capitalist mode of production, which was only developing the «foundations» of socialism. In agriculture it was the destruction of all forms of feudal subjugation and the creation of a co-operative management of large holdings, with the least possible tolerance for small-scale mercantile production, which in 1917 was the dominant form and had been inevitably encouraged by the destruction (and in this case not only political but economic) of the feudal mode of production. Even the landless agricultural workers, the only «poor peasants» truly dear to Lenin, had diminished in numbers – the expropriation of the rich peasants had transformed them into landowners.

The question of how long this situation would last rose up in the great discussion of 1926. Stalin said: if it is true that full socialism is impossible here then we must abandon power. Trotsky insisted that he believed in the international revolution, but that it was necessary to wait for it while remaining in power, even if it was necessary to wait fifty more years. Trotsky was answered that for an isolated Russia Lenin had spoken of twenty years. We have shown that in reality Lenin spoke of twenty years «of good relations with the peasants», after which, even if Russia had not yet become socialist economically, the class struggle would break out between the workers and peasants in order to break up rural micro-production and agrarian private microcapital, the true gangrene of the revolution.

But in the hypothesis of the European proletarian revolution, the micro-possession of the land – which under its present «kolkhosian» form is ineradicable – would have undergone a drastically swift treatment without any delay.


14. Marxist economic science allows it to be demonstrated that Stalinism had not even reached the stage that Lenin saw as a far-away result. It is not twenty, but forty years which have elapsed, and the relations with the kolkhoz peasants are as «good» as the relations with the industrial workers are «bad». Industry is managed by the state under a regime of wage labor and under mercantile conditions which so far are even worse than those existing in uncamouflaged capitalisms. The kolkhoz peasant is well treated as a co-operator of the kolkhoz enterprise – which is a private and not state capitalist form – and, better yet, as a small manager of the land and capital.

It is needless to recall the bourgeois characteristics of the Soviet economy, which go from commerce to inheritance and savings. Just as this economy is not at all proceeding towards the abolition of exchange between monetary equivalents and the non-monetary remuneration of labor, likewise the relations between workers and peasants go in a sense opposed to the abolition – which characterizes communism – of the difference between agricultural labor and industrial labor, between manual labor and intellectual labor.

Forty years separate us from 1917 and about thirty separate us from the date when Trotsky estimated that the length of time during which it would be possible to remain in power would be fifty years (which would carry us to around 1975) and the revolution in the West has not come. The assassins of Leon Trotsky and of Bolshevism have largely constructed capitalism in industry, that is to say the foundations of socialism. But this has only been done in a limited way in agriculture and they are still twenty years behind Lenin’s twenty years as concerns the liquidation of the stupid kolkhosian form, that degeneration of classical liberal capitalism itself with which, in an unspoken agreement with foreign capitalists, they would like today to infect industry and all aspects of life. It will not be necessary to wait until 1975 to see the crises of production unfurling on the two competing camps, sweeping away the bales of hay, the chicken houses, the little individual garages, and all the miserable creations of the repugnant kolkhosian domestic ideal, that modern Arcadian illusion of populist capitalism.


15. In a recent study by American bourgeois economists on the world dynamic of trade, it was calculated that the present race for the conquest of markets (which after the second world conflict was concealed behind the shady Puritanism of «helpful» America) will reach its critical point in 1977. Twenty years still separate us from the new flare-up of the permanent revolution seen in the international perspective, which coincides with the conclusions of the distant debate of 1926 as well as with the result of our work during these last years.

In order to avoid a new proletarian defeat, it is indispensable that the theoretical restoration of Marxism must not wait until the third world conflict has already rallied the workers behind all their cursed flags (which was the situation that confronted Lenin and necessitated his tremendous effort after 1914). This restoration must be developed well before, with the organization of a world party that does not hesitate to propose its own dictatorship. Any hesitation on this point is equivalent to liquidation. We can see this in the flocks who explain Russia by means of palace revolutions, the work of great men or traitors, demagogues or other swashbucklers.

In the course of these fateful twenty years, we will see a great crisis of world industrial production and of the commercial cycle, a crisis comparable in depth to the American crisis of 1932 but which will not spare Russian capitalism this time. This crisis will be able to constitute the basis for the return of resolute proletarian minorities – no longer microscopic – on Marxist positions that will have nothing to do with the apologies of those anti-Russian pseudo-revolutions of the Hungarian type, where peasants, students, and workers fight side by side in the interclassist Stalinist way.

Can we venture a projection of the future international revolution? Its central arena will consist of the countries which responded to the ruins of World War II with a powerful upsurge of productive forces, in the first place Germany (including East Germany), Poland, and Czechoslovakia. The proletarian insurrection, which will proceed with the ferocious expropriation of all the possessors of capital (which is presented as being «in the hands of the people») would have its epicentre between Berlin and the Rhine, and would rapidly draw northern Italy and northeast France into the movement.

Such a perspective is not accessible to the weak of spirit who do not want to grant an hour of relative survival to any of the capitalisms, which to them are all equal in strength and should be executed en masse, even if the only weapons they have are old rifles instead of atomic missiles!

Looking at Russia confirms that Stalin and his successors have industrialized that country in a revolutionary way at the same time that they have mutilated the world proletariat in a counter-revolutionary way; and Russia will be a reserve of productive forces for the future revolution, and only later a reserve of revolutionary armies.

After the third revolutionary wave, continental Europe will have become Communist politically and socially, or the last Marxist will have disappeared.

British capitalism has already burned its reserves which enabled it, as Marx and Engels showed, to bourgeoisify the workers in a labourist way. This time, even American capitalism, ten times more vampiric and oppressive, will in its turn lose its reserves in the supreme confrontation. For the repugnant peaceful emulation of today will be substituted the struggle to death between the antagonistic social classes.


16. This is why our commemoration is addressed not to the past forty years, but to the twenty years to come and their culmination.



(1) Marx’s and Engels’ preface to the second Russian edition of the Communist Manifesto, 1882.

(2) Marx’s letter to the editor of Otetchestvennie Zapiski, November 1877.

(3) This refers to Engels’ article Soziales aus Russland (1875) and his post-script in 1894 to this same article.

(4) «Russia e rivoluzione nella teoria marxista», II Programma Comunista nos. 21/1954 to 8/1955.

(5) Lenin, Two Tactics of Social-Democracy in the Democratic Revolution, 1905. Works, vol. 9, pp. 57, 48, 82.

(6) Ibid., p. 136.

(7) II Programma Comunista no. 8/1955.

(8) «Struttura economica e sociale della Russia d’oggi», Il Programma Comunista nos. 10/1955 to 12/1957 – Reprinted in book form by Edizioni Il Programma Comunista, Milan, 1975.



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