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The Programme of the Comintern - System of Capitalism

I. The World. System of Capitalism, its Development and Inevitable Downfall


THE characteristic features of capitalist society which arose on the basis of commodity production are the monopoly of the most important and vital means of production by the capitalist class and big landlords; the exploitation of the wage labour of the proletariat, which, being deprived of the means of production is compelled to sell its labour power; the production of commodities for profit; and, linked up with all this, the planless and anarchic character of the process of production as a whole. Exploitation relationships and the economic domination of the bourgeoisie find their political expression in the organised capitalist State-the instrument for the suppression of the proletariat.

The history of capitalism has entirely confirmed the theories of Marx and Engels concerning the laws of development of capitalist society and concerning the contradictions of this development that must inevitably lead to the downfall of the whole capitalist system.

In its quest for profits the bourgeoisie was compelled to develop the productive forces on an ever-increasing scale and to strengthen and expand the domination of capitalist relationships of production. Thus, the development of capitalism constantly reproduces on a wider scale all the inherent contradictions of the capitalist system-primarily, the vital contradiction between the social character of labour and private acquisition, between the growth of the productive forces and the property relations of capitalism. The predominance of private property in the means of production and the anarchy prevailing in the process of production have disturbed the equilibrium between the various branches of production; for a growing contradiction developed between the tendency towards unlimited expansion of production and the restricted consumption of the masses of the proletariat (general over-production), and this resulted in periodical devastating crises and mass unemployment among the proletariat. The predominance of private property also found expression in the competition that prevailed in each separate capitalist country as well as in the constantly expanding world market. This latter form of capitalist rivalry resulted in a number of wars, which are the inevitable accompaniment of capitalist development.

On the other hand, the technical and economic advantages of mass production have resulted in the squeezing out and destruction in the competitive struggle of the pre-capitalist economic forms and in the ever-increasing concentration and centralisation of capital. In the sphere of industry this law of concentration and centralisation of capital manifested itself primarily in the direct ruin of small enterprises or alternatively in their being reduced to the position of auxiliary units of large enterprises. In the domain of agriculture which, owing to the existence of the monopoly in land and in absolute rent, must inevitably lag behind the general rate of development, this law not only found expression in the process of differentiation that took place among the peasantry and in the proletarianisation of broad strata of them, but also and mainly in the open and concealed subordination of small peasant economy to the domination of big capital. Small farming has been able to maintain a nominal independence only at the price of extreme intensification of labour and systematic under consumption.

The ever-growing application of machinery, the constant improvement in technique and, consequently, the uninterrupted rise in the organic composition of capital, accompanied by still further division, increased productivity and intensity of labour, meant also increased employment of female and child labour, the formation of enormous industrial reserve armies which are constantly replenished by the proletarianised peasantry who are forced to leave their villages as well as by the ruined small and middle urban bourgeoisie. The collection of a handful of capitalist magnates at one pole of social relationships and of a gigantic mass of the proletariat at the other; the constantly increasing rate of exploitation of the working class, the reproduction on a wider scale of the deepest contradictions of capitalism and their consequences (crises, wars, etc.); the constant growth of social inequality, the rising discontent of the proletariat united and schooled by the mechanism of capitalist production itself-all this has inevitably undermined the foundations of capitalism and has brought nearer the day of its collapse.

Simultaneously, a profound change has taken place in the social and cultural life of capitalist society; the parasitical decadence of the rentier group of the bourgeoisie; the break up of the family, which expresses the growing contradiction between the mass participation of women in social production and the forms of family and domestic life largely inherited from previous economic epochs; the growing shallowness and degeneracy of cultural and ideological life resulting from the minute specialisation of labour, the monstrous forms of urban life and the restrictedness of rural life; the incapability of the bourgeoisie, notwithstanding the enormous achievements of the natural sciences, to create a synthetically scientific philosophy, and the growth of ideological, mystical and religious superstition, are all phenomena signalising the approach of the historical end of the capitalist system.


The period of industrial capitalism was, in the main, a period of “free competition”; a period of a relatively smooth evolution and expansion of capitalism throughout the whole world, when the as yet unoccupied colonies were being divided up and conquered by armed force; a period of continuous growth of the inherent contradictions of capitalism, the burden of which fell mainly upon the systematically plundered, crushed and oppressed colonial periphery.

Towards the beginning of the 20th century, this period was replaced by the period of imperialism, during which capitalism developed spasmodically and conflictingly; free competition rapidly gave way to monopoly, the previously “available” colonial lands were all divided up, and the struggle for a redistribution of colonies and spheres of influence inevitably began to assume primarily the form of a struggle by force of arms.

Thus, the full intensity and the truly world-wide extent of the contradictions of capitalism became most glaringly revealed in the epoch of imperialism (finance capitalism), which, from the historical standpoint, a new form of capitalism, a new system of relationships between the various parts. of world capitalist economy and a change in the relationship between the principal classes of capitalist society.

This new historical period set in as a result of the operation of the principal dynamic laws of capitalist society. It grew out of the development of industrial capitalism, and is the historical continuation of the latter. It sharpened the manifestations of all the fundamental tendencies and dynamic laws of capitalist development, of all its fundamental contradictions and antagonisms. The law of the concentration and centralisation of capital led to the formation of powerful combines (cartels, syndicates, trusts), to new forms of gigantic combinations of enterprises, linked up into one system by the banks. The merging of industrial capital with bank capital, the absorption of big land ownership into the general system of capital organisation, and the monopolist character of this form of capitalism transferred the epoch of industrial capital into the epoch of finance capital. “Free competition” of the period of industrial capitalism, which replaced feudal monopoly and the monopoly of merchant capital, became itself transformed into finance capital monopoly. At the same time, although capitalist monopolist organisations grow out of free competition, they do not eliminate competition, hut exist side by side with it and hover over it, thus giving rise to a series of exceptionally great and acute contradictions, frictions and conflicts.

The growing use of complex machinery, of chemical processes and of electrical energy; the resulting higher organic composition of capital; and the consequent decline in the rate of profit, which only the biggest monopolist combines are able to counteract for a time by their policy of high cartel prices, still further stimulate the quest for colonial super-profits and the struggle for a new division of the world. Standardised mass production creates a demand for more foreign markets. The growing demand for raw materials and fuel intensifies the race for their sources. Lastly, the system of high protection, which hinders the export of merchandise and secures additional profit for exported capital, creates additional stimuli to the export of capital. Export of capital becomes, therefore, the decisive and specific form of economic contact between the various parts of world capitalist economy. The total effect of all this is that the monopolist ownership of colonial markets, of sources of raw materials and of spheres of investment of capital extremely accentuates the general unevenness of capitalist development and sharpens the conflicts between the “great powers” of finance capital over the re-allocation of colonies and spheres of influence.

The growth of the productive forces of world economy thus leads to the further internationalisation of economic life and simultaneously leads to a struggle for a redistribution of the world, already divided up among the biggest finance capital States, to a change in and sharpening of the forms of this struggle and to the older method of bringing down prices being superseded to an increasing degree by the method of direct force (boycott, high protection, tariff wars, wars proper, etc.). Consequently, the monopolist form of capitalism is inevitably accompanied by imperialist wars, which, by the area they embrace and the destructiveness of their technique, have no parallel in world history.


Expressing the tendency for unification of the various sections of the dominant class, the imperialist form of capitalism places the broad masses of the proletariat in opposition, not to a single employer, but, to an increasing degree, to the capitalist class as a whole and to the capitalist State. On the other hand, this form of capitalism breaks down the national barriers that have become too restricted for it, widens the scope of the capitalist State power of the dominant Great Powers and brings them into opposition to vast masses of nationally oppressed peoples in the so-called small nations as well as in the colonies. Finally, this form of capitalism brings the imperialist States most sharply into opposition to each other.

This being the case, State power, which is becoming the dictatorship of the finance-capitalist oligarchy and the expression of its concentrated might, acquires special significance for the bourgeoisie. The functions of this multi-national imperialist State grow in all directions. The development of State capitalist forms, which facilitate the struggle in foreign markets (mobilisation of industry for war purposes) as well as the struggle against the working class; the monstrous growth of militarism (armies, naval and air fleets, and the employment of chemistry and bacteriology); the increasing pressure of the imperialist State upon the-working class (the growth of exploitation and direct suppression of the workers on the one hand and the systematic policy of bribing the bureaucratic reformist leadership on the other), all this expresses the enormous growth of the power of the State. Under these circumstances, every more or less important action of the proletariat becomes transformed into an action against the State power, i.e., into political action.

Hence, the development of capitalism, and particularly the imperialist epoch of its development, reproduces the fundamental contradictions of capitalism on an increasingly magnified scale. Competition among small capitalists ceases, only to make way for competition among big capitalists; where competition among big capitalists subsides, it flares up between gigantic combinations of capitalist magnates and their governments; local and national crises become transformed into crises affecting a number of countries and, subsequently, into world crises; local wars give way to wars between coalitions of States and to world wars; the class struggle changes from isolated actions by single groups of workers into nation-wide conflicts and subsequently, into an international struggle of the world proletariat against the world bourgeoisie. Finally, two main revolutionary forces are organising against the organised might of finance capital-on the one hand the workers in the capitalist States, on the other hand the victims of the oppression of foreign capital, the masses of the people in the colonies, marching under the leadership and the hegemony of the international revolutionary proletarian movement.

However, this fundamental revolutionary tendency is temporarily paralysed by the fact that certain sections of the European, North American and Japanese proletariat are bribed by the imperialist bourgeoisie, and by the treachery of the national bourgeoisie in the semi-colonial and colonial countries who are scared by the revolutionary mass movement. The bourgeoisie in imperialist countries, able to secure additional surplus profits from the position it holds in the world market (more developed technique, export of capital to countries with a higher rate of profit, etc.), and from the proceeds of its plunder of the colonies and semi-colonies-was able to raise the wages of its “own” workers out of these surplus profits, thus giving these workers an interest in the development of “home” capitalism, in the plunder of the colonies and in being loyal to the imperialist State.

This systematic bribery was and is being very widely practised in the most powerful imperialist countries and finds most striking expression in the ideology and practice of the labour aristocracy and the bureaucratic strata of the working class, i.e., the social democratic and trade union leaders, who proved to be direct agents of bourgeois influence among the proletariat and stalwart pillars of the capitalist system.

By stimulating the growth of the corrupt upper stratum of the working class, however, imperialism, in the end destroys its influence upon the working class, because the growing contradictions of imperialism, the worsening of the conditions of the broad masses of the workers, the mass unemployment among the proletariat, the enormous cost of military conflicts and the burdens they entail, the fact that certain Powers have lost their monopolist position in the world market, the break-away of the colonies, etc., serve to undermine the basis of social democracy among the masses. Similarly, the systematic bribery of the various sections of the bourgeoisie in the colonies and semi-colonies, their betrayal of the national-revolutionary movement and their rapprochement with the imperialist powers can paralyse the development of the revolutionary crisis only for a time. In the final analysis, this leads to the intensification of imperialist oppression, to the decline of the influence of the national bourgeoisie upon the masses of the people, to the sharpening of the revolutionary crisis, to the unleashing of the agrarian revolution of the broad masses of the peasantry and to the creation of conditions favourable for the establishment of the leaders of the proletariat in the popular mass struggle in the colonies and dependencies for independence and complete national liberation.


Imperialism has greatly developed the productive forces of world capitalism. It has completed the preparation of all the material pre-requisites for the socialist organisation of society. By its wars it has demonstrated that the productive forces of world economy, which have outgrown the restricted boundaries of imperialist States, demand the organisation of economy on a world, or international scale. Imperialism tries to remove this contradiction by hacking a road with fire and sword towards a single world State-capitalist trust, which is to organise the whole world economy. This sanguinary utopia is being extolled by the social democratic ideologists as a peaceful method of newly “organised” capitalism. In reality, this utopia encounters insurmountable objective obstacles of such magnitude that capitalism must inevitably fall beneath the weight of its own contradictions. The law of uneven development of capitalism, which becomes intensified in the epoch of imperialism, renders firm and durable international combinations of imperialist powers impossible. On the other hand, imperialist wars, which are developing into world wars, and through which the law of the centralisation of capitalism strives to reach its world limit-a single world trust-are accompanied by so much destruction and place such burdens upon the shoulders of the working class and of the millions of colonial proletarians and peasants, that capitalism must inevitably perish beneath the blows of the proletarian revolution long before this goal is reached.

Being the highest phase of capitalist development, imperialism, expanding the productive forces of world economy to enormous dimensions, and re-fashioning the whole world after its own image, draws within the orbit of finance capitalist exploitation all colonies, all races and all nations. At the same time, however, the monopolist form of capital develops increasingly the elements of parasitical degeneration, decay and decline within capitalism. In destroying, to some extent, the driving force of competition, by conducting a policy of cartel prices, and by having undivided mastery of the market, monopoly capital reveals a tendency to retard the further development of the forces of production. In squeezing enormous sums of surplus profit out of the millions of colonial workers and peasants and in accumulating colossal incomes from this exploitation, imperialism is creating a type of decaying and parasitically degenerate rentier-class, as well as whole strata of parasites who live by clipping coupons. In completing the process of creating the material pre-requisites for socialism (the concentration of means of production, the enormous socialisation of labour, the growth of labour organisations), the epoch of imperialism intensifies the antagonisms among the “Great Powers” and gives rise to wars which cause the break-up of its single world economy. Imperialism is therefore capitalism moribund and decaying. It is the final stage of development of the capitalist system. It is the threshold of world social revolution.

Hence, international proletarian revolution logically emerges out of the conditions of development of capitalism generally, and out of its imperialist phase in particular. The capitalist system as a whole is approaching its final collapse. The dictatorship of finance capital is perishing to give way to the dictatorship of the proletariat.

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