November 30, 2017

II The Question of the Victory of Socialism in Individual Capitalist Countries

The Seventh Enlarged Plenum of the E.C.C.I
I have spoken of various errors of the opposition and of inaccuracies of fact observed in the speeches of the opposition leaders. I have tried to exhaust this subject in the form of miscellaneous remarks in the first part of my speech in reply to the discussion. Permit me now to pass directly to the substance of the matter.
1. The Prerequisites for Proletarian Revolutions in Individual Countries in the Period of Imperialism

The first question is whether the victory of socialism is possible in individual capitalist countries in the period of imperialism. As you see, it is not a question of any one particular country, but of all more or less developed imperialist countries.

What is the fundamental error of the opposition in the question of the victory of socialism in individual capitalist countries?

The fundamental error of the opposition is that it does not, or will not, understand the vast difference between pre-imperialist capitalism and imperialist capitalism, that it does not understand the economic essence of imperialism and confuses two different phases of capitalism—the pre-imperialist phase and the imperialist phase.

From this error springs another error of the opposition, which is that it does not understand the meaning and importance of the law of uneven development in the period of imperialism, counterposes to it a levelling tendency, and thus slides into the Kautskyan position of ultra-imperialism.

These two errors of the opposition lead to a third, which is that it mechanically extends the formulas and propositions derived from pre-imperialist capitalism to imperialist capitalism, and it is this which leads it to deny the possibility of the victory of socialism in individual capitalist countries.

What is the difference between the old, pre-monopoly capitalism and the new, monopoly capitalism, if this difference is defined in a couple of words?

It is that the development of capitalism through free competition has been replaced by development through huge monopolist capitalist combines; that the old, "cultured," "progressive" capital has been replaced by finance capital, "decaying" capital; that the "peaceful" expansion of capital and its spread to "vacant" territories has been replaced by spasmodic development, development through redivisions of the already divided world by means of military conflicts between capitalist groups; that the old capitalism, the development of which as a whole was on the upgrade, has thus been replaced by moribund capitalism, the development of which as a whole is on the downgrade.

Here is what Lenin says on this score:

"Let us recall what caused the change from the former 'peaceful' epoch of capitalism to the present imperialist epoch: free competition gave way to monopolist capitalist combines and the whole terrestrial globe was divided up. It is obvious that both these facts (and factors) are really of world-wide significance: free trade and peaceful competition were possible and necessary as long as capital was in a position to enlarge its colonies without hindrance, and to seize unoccupied land in Africa, etc., while the concentration of capital was still slight and no monopolist undertakings, i.e., undertakings of such a magnitude as to dominate a whole branch of industry, existed. The appearance and growth of such monopolist undertakings . . . make the free competition of former times impossible, they have cut the ground from under its feet, while the division of the globe compels the capitalists to pass from peaceful expansion to armed struggle for the redivision of colonies and spheres of influence" (see Vol. XVIII, p. 254).

And further:

"It is impossible to live in the old way, in the comparatively tranquil, cultured, peaceful surroundings of a capitalism that is smoothly evolving* and gradually spreading to new countries, for a new epoch has been ushered in. Finance capital is ousting and will completely oust a particular country from the ranks of the Great Powers, will deprive it of its colonies and spheres of influence" (see Vol. XVIII, pp. 256-57)

From this follows Lenin's main conclusion concerning the character of imperialist capitalism:

"It is clear why imperialism is moribund capitalism, capitalism in transition to socialism: monopoly, which grows out of capitalism, is alreadycapitalism dying out, the beginning of its transition to socialism. The tremendous socialisation of labour by imperialism (what the apologists—the bourgeois economists—call 'interlocking') means the same thing" (see Vol. XIX, p. 302).

It is the misfortune of our opposition that it does not understand the extreme importance of this difference between pre-imperialist capitalism and imperialist capitalism.

Hence the starting point for the position of our Party is the recognition of the fact that present-day capitalism, imperialist capitalism, is moribund capitalism.

This, unfortunately, does not mean that capitalism is already extinct. But it undoubtedly does mean that capitalism as a whole is moving towards extinction, and not regeneration, that the development of capitalism as a whole is on the down grade, not the upgrade.

From this general question follows the question of uneven development in the period of imperialism.

What do Leninists mean, as a rule, when they speak of uneven development in the period of imperialism?

Do they mean that there is a big difference in the levels of development of the various capitalist countries, that some lag behind others in their development, and that this difference is becoming wider and wider?

No, they do not mean that. To confuse unevenness of development under imperialism with the difference in the levels of developmentof the capitalist countries is to be guilty of philistinism. It was precisely this philistinism that the opposition was guilty of at the Fifteenth Conference of the C.P.S.U.(B.) when they confused unevenness of development with the difference in economic levels of the various capitalist countries. It was precisely by starting out from this confusion that the opposition at that time arrived at the absolutely incorrect conclusion that the unevenness of development was formerly greater than it is now, under imperialism. It was precisely because of this that Trotsky said at the Fifteenth Conference that "this unevenness was greater in the nineteenth century than in the twentieth" (see Trotsky's speech at the Fifteenth Conference of the C.P.S.U.). Zinoviev at that time said the same thing, asserting that it was "untrue that the unevenness of capitalist development was less before the beginning of the imperialist epoch" (see Zinoviev's speech at the Fifteenth Conference of the C.P.S.U.).

It is true that now, after the discussion at the Fifteenth Conference, the opposition has found it necessary to make a change of front, and in its speeches at the Enlarged Plenum of the E.C.C.I. has said something that is the very opposite, or has simply tried to pass over this error of its in silence. Here, for instance, is what Trotsky said in his speech at the Enlarged Plenum: "As to the tempo of development, imperialism has infinitely accentuated this unevenness." As for Zinoviev, he deemed it wise in his speech at the E.C.C.I. plenum simply to keep silent on this question, although he must have known that the dispute was precisely whether the action of the law of unevenness becomes stronger or weaker in the period of imperialism. But this only shows that the discussion taught the opposition a thing or two and was not without benefit to it.

And so: the unevenness of development of the capitalist countries in the period of imperialism must not be confused with the difference in economic levels of the various capitalist countries.

Can it be said that the diminishing difference in the levels of development of the capitalist countries and the increased levelling of these countries weaken the action of the law of uneven development under imperialism? No, it cannot. Does the difference in the levels of development increase or diminish? It undoubtedly diminishes. Does the degree of levelling grow or decline? It certainly grows. Is there not a contradiction between the growth of levelling and increasing unevenness of development under imperialism? No, there is not. On the contrary, levelling is the background and the basis which make the increasing unevenness of development under imperialism possible. Only people who, like our oppositionists, do not understand the economic essence of imperialism can counterpose levelling to the law of uneven development under imperialism. It is precisely because the lagging countries accelerate their development and tend to become level with the foremost countries that the struggle between countries to outstrip one another becomes more acute; it is precisely this that creates the possibility for some countries to outstrip others and oust them from the markets, thereby creating the pre-conditions for military conflicts, for the weakening of the capitalist world front and for the breaching of this front by the proletarians of different capitalist countries. He who does not understand this simple matter, understands nothing about the economic essence of monopoly capitalism.

And so: levelling is one of the conditions for the increasing unevenness of development in the period of imperialism.

Can it be said that the unevenness of development under imperialism consists in the fact that some countries overtake and then outstrip others economically in the ordinary way, in an evolutionary way, so to speak, without spasmodic leaps, without catastrophic wars, and without redivisions of the already divided world? No, it cannot. This kind of unevenness also existed in the period of pre-monopoly capitalism; Marx knew about it, and Lenin wrote about it in his Development of Capitalism in Russia. At that time the development of capitalism proceeded more or less smoothly, more or less in an evolutionary way, and some countries outstripped others over a long period of time, without spasmodic leaps, and without the necessary accompaniment of military conflicts on a world scale. It is not this unevenness we are speaking of now.

What, then, is the law of the uneven development of capitalist countries under imperialism?

The law of uneven development in the period of imperialism means the spasmodic development of some countries relative to others, the rapid ousting from the world market of some countries by others, periodic re-divisions of the already divided world through military conflicts and catastrophic wars, the increasing profundity and acuteness of the conflicts in the imperialist camp, the weakening of the capitalist world front, the possibility of this front being breached by the proletariat of individual countries, and the possibility of the victory of socialism in individual countries.

What are the basic elements of the law of uneven development under imperialism?

Firstly, the fact that the world is already divided up among imperialist groups, that there are no more "vacant," unoccupied territories in the world, and that in order to occupy new markets and sources of raw materials, in order to expand, it is necessary to seize territory from others by force.

Secondly, the fact that the unprecedented development of technology and the increasing levelling of development of the capitalist countries have made possible and facilitated the spasmodic outstripping of some countries by others, the ousting of more powerful countries by less powerful but rapidly developing countries.

Thirdly, the fact that the old distribution of spheres of influence among the various imperialist groups is forever coming into conflict with the new correlation of forces in the world market, and that, in order to establish "equilibrium" between the old distribution of spheres of influence and the new correlation of forces, periodic redivisions of the world by means of imperialist wars are necessary.

Hence the growing intensity and acuteness of the unevenness of development in the period of imperialism.

Hence the impossibility of resolving the conflicts in the imperialist camp by peaceful means.

Hence the untenability of Kautsky's theory of ultra-imperialism, which preaches the possibility of a peaceful settlement of these conflicts.

But it follows from this that, in denying that the unevenness of development becomes more intense and acute in the period of imperialism, the opposition slides into the position of ultra-imperialism.

Such are the characteristic features of the unevenness of development in the period of imperialism.

When was the division of the world among the imperialist groups completed?

Lenin said that the division of the world was completed in the beginning of the twentieth century.

When in point of fact was the question of a redivi-sion of the already divided world first raised?

At the time of the first world imperialist war.

But it follows from this that the law of uneven development under imperialism could only be discovered and substantiated in the beginning of the twentieth century.

I spoke about that in my report at the Fifteenth Conference of the C.P.S.U.(B.), when I said that the law of uneven development under imperialism was discovered and substantiated by Comrade Lenin.

The world imperialist war was the first attempt to redivide the already divided world. That attempt cost capitalism the victory of the revolution in Russia and the undermining of the foundations of imperialism in the colonies and dependencies.

It goes without saying that the first attempt at re-division is bound to be followed by a second attempt, preparations for which are already under way in the imperialist camp.

It is scarcely to be doubted that a second attempt at redivision will cost world capitalism much dearer than the first.

Such are the perspectives of development of world capitalism from the standpoint of the law of uneven development under the conditions of imperialism.

You see that these perspectives point directly and immediately to the possibility of the victory of socialism in individual capitalist countries in the period of imperialism.

We know that Lenin deduced the possibility of the victory of socialism in individual countries directly and immediately from the law of uneven development of the capitalist countries. And Lenin was absolutely right. For the law of uneven development under imperialism completely destroys the basis for "theoretical" exercises on the part of all Social-Democrats concerning the impossibility of the victory of socialism in individual capitalist countries.

Here is what Lenin said on this score in his programmatic article written in 1915:

"Uneven economic and political development is an absolute law of capitalism. Hence* the victory of socialism is possible first in several or even in one capitalist country taken separately" (see Vol. XVIII, p. 232).

Conclusions:

a) The fundamental error of the opposition consists in the fact that it does not see the difference between the two phases of capitalism, or avoids stressing this difference. And why does it avoid doing so? Because this difference leads to the law of uneven development in the period of imperialism.

b) The second error of the opposition is that it does not understand, or underestimates, the decisive significance of the law of uneven development of the capitalist countries under imperialism. And why does it underestimate it? Because a correct appraisal of the law of uneven development of the capitalist countries leads to the conclusion that the victory of socialism in individual countries is possible.

c) Hence the third error of the opposition, which consists in denying the possibility of the victory of socialism in individual capitalist countries under imperialism.

Whoever denies the possibility of the victory of socialism in individual countries is obliged to keep silent about the significance of the law of uneven development under imperialism. And whoever is obliged to keep silent about the significance of the law of uneven development cannot but gloss over the difference between pre-imperialist capitalism and imperialist capitalism.

That is how matters stand with the question of the pre-conditions for proletarian revolutions in the capitalist countries.

What is the significance of this question in practice?

In practice, we are confronted by two lines.

One line is the line of our Party, which calls upon the proletarians of the individual countries to prepare for the coming revolution, to follow vigilantly the course of events and to be ready, when the conditions are favourable, to breach the capitalist front independently, to take power and shake the foundations of world capitalism.

The other line is the line of our opposition, which sows doubts regarding the expediency of independently breaching the capitalist front and calls on the proletarians of the individual countries to wait for the "general denouement."

Whereas the line of our Party is one of intensifying the revolutionary onslaught on one's own bourgeoisie and giving free rein to the initiative of the proletarians of the individual countries, the line of our opposition is one of passive waiting and of fettering the initiative of the proletarians of the individual countries in their struggle against their own bourgeoisies.

The first line is one of activising the proletarians of the individual countries.

The second line is one of sapping the proletariat's will for revolution, the line of passivity and waiting.

Lenin was a thousand times right when he wrote the following prophetic words, which have a direct bearing on our present disputes:

"I know that there are, of course, sages who think they are very clever and even call themselves Socialists, who assert that power should not have been seized until the revolution had broken out in all countries. They do not suspect that by speaking in this way they are deserting the revolution and going over to the side of the bourgeoisie. To wait until the toiling classes bring about a revolution on an international scale means that everybody should stand stock-still in expectation. That is nonsense" (see Vol. XXIII, p. 9).

These words of Lenin should not be forgotten.

2. How Zinoviev "Elaborates" Lenin

I have spoken of the pre-conditions for proletarian revolutions in individual capitalist countries. I should now like to say a few words to show how Zinoviev distorts or "elaborates" Lenin's fundamental article on the preconditions for proletarian revolutions and on the victory of socialism in individual capitalist countries. I have in mind Lenin's well-known article, "The United States of Europe Slogan," written in 1915 and several times quoted in the course of our discussions. Zinoviev reproached me for not having quoted this article in full; but he himself tried to give the article an interpretation which cannot be called other than a complete distortion of Lenin's views, of his basic line on the question of the victory of socialism in individual countries. Permit me to quote this passage in full. I shall try to indicate by special stress the lines which I omitted previously owing to lack of time. Here is the passage:

"Uneven economic and political development is an absolute law of capitalism. Hence the victory of socialism is possible first in several or even in one capitalist country taken separately. The victorious proletariat of that country, having expropriated the capitalists and organised socialist production, would stand up against the rest of the world, the capitalist world, attracting to its cause the oppressed classes of other countries, raising revolts in those countries against the capitalists, and in the event of necessity coming out even with armed force against the exploiting classes and their states. The political form of the society in which the proletariat is victorious by overthrowing the bourgeoisie will be a democratic republic, which will more and more centralise the forces of the proletariat of the given nation, or nations, in the struggle against the states that have not yet gone over to socialism. The abolition of classes is impossible without the dictatorship of the oppressed class, the proletariat. The free union of nations in socialism is impossible without a more or less prolonged and stubborn struggle of the socialist republics against the backward states" (see Vol. XVIII, pp. 232-33).

Zinoviev, having quoted this passage, made two remarks: the first on the democratic republic, and the second on the organisation of socialist production.

Let us, to begin with, discuss the first remark. Zinoviev thinks that since Lenin speaks here of a democratic republic, he can have in mind at most the seizure of power by the proletariat, and Zinoviev was not ashamed to hint, rather vaguely but insistently, that what Lenin most likely had in mind here was a bourgeois republic. Is that true? Of course not. In order to refute this not altogether honest hint of Zinoviev's, it is enough to read the last lines of the passage, where it speaks of the "struggle of the socialist republics against the backward states." It is clear that in speaking of a democratic republic Lenin had in mind a socialist republic, and not a bourgeois republic.

In 1915 Lenin did not yet know of Soviet power as the state form of the dictatorship of the proletariat. Lenin knew already in 1905 that the various Soviets were the embryo of revolutionary power in the period of the overthrow of tsarism. But he did not then yet know of Soviet power united on a country-wide scale as the state form of the dictatorship of the proletariat. Lenin discovered the Republic of Soviets as the state form of the dictatorship of the proletariat only in 1917, and he made a detailed analysis of this new form of political organisation of a transitional society in the summer of 1917, chiefly in his book The State and Revolution. This, in fact, explains why Lenin in the passage quoted speaks not of a Soviet republic, but of a democratic republic, by which, as is clear from the quotation, he meant a socialist republic. Lenin acted in the same way here as Marx and Engels did in their time, who before the Paris Commune considered the republic in general as the form of political organisation of society in the transition from capitalism to socialism, but after the Paris Commune deciphered this term and said that this republic must be of the type of the Paris Commune. This is apart from the fact that if what Lenin had in mind in the above passage was a bourgeois-democratic republic, there could be no question of "dictatorship of the proletariat," "expropriation of the capitalists," etc.

You see that Zinoviev's attempt to "elaborate" Lenin cannot be called successful.

Let us pass to Zinoviev's second remark. Zinoviev asserts that Comrade Lenin's phrase about "organisation of socialist production" should be understood not in the sense in which normal people generally are bound to understand it, but in some other sense, namely, that what Lenin had in mind here was only proceeding to organise socialist production. Why, on what grounds, Zinoviev did not explain. Permit me to say that Zinoviev is here making another attempt to "elaborate" Lenin. It is directly stated in the passage quoted that "the victorious proletariat of that country, having expropriated the capitalists and having organised socialist production, would stand up against the rest of the world, the capitalist world." It says here "having organised," and not "organising." Need it be demonstrated that there is a difference here? Need it be demonstrated either that if what Lenin had in mind was only proceeding to organise socialist production, he would have said "organising," and not "having organised." Consequently, Lenin had in mind not only proceeding to organise socialist production, but also the possibility of organising socialist production, the possibility of completely building socialist production in individual countries.

You see that this second attempt of Zinoviev's to "elaborate" Lenin must likewise be regarded as unsuccessful, to say the least of it.

Zinoviev tried to disguise his attempts to "elaborate" Lenin by facetiously remarking that "you can't build socialism in two weeks or two months by a wave of the wand." I am afraid that Zinoviev needed this facetious-ness in order to put "a fair face on a bad business." Where has Zinoviev found people who propose to build socialism in two weeks, or two months, or two years? If there are such people at all, why did he not name them? He did not name them because there are no such people. Zinoviev needed this spurious facetiousness in order to disguise his "work" of "elaborating" Lenin and Leninism.

And so:

a) proceeding from the law of uneven development under imperialism, Lenin, in his fundamental article, "The United States of Europe Slogan," drew the conclusion that the victory of socialism in individual capitalist countries is possible;

b) by the victory of socialism in individual countries, Lenin means the seizure of power by the proletariat, the expropriation of the capitalists, and the organisation of socialist production; moreover, all these tasks are not an end in themselves, but a means of standing up against the rest of the world, the capitalist world, and helping the proletarians of all countries in their struggle against capitalism;

c) Zinoviev tried to whittle down these Leninist propositions and to "elaborate" Lenin in conformity with the present semi-Menshevik position of the opposition bloc. But the attempt has proved futile.

Further comment, I think, is superfluous here.