MARXIST INTERNET ARCHIVE |  V. I. Lenin


V. I. Lenin

NASCENT TREND
OF
IMPERIALIST ECONOMISM

Written August-September 1916        
 
First published in the magazine        
Bolshevik No. 15, 1929        
December 1916        
Signed: N. Lenin        

Published according to
the manuscript
 
 
 
 

From V. I. Lenin, Collected Works, 4th English Edition,
Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1964

Vol. 23, pp. 13-21.

Translated from the Russian by
M. S. Levin, Joe Fineberg and Others
Edited by M. S. Levin


Prepared © for the Internet by David J. Romagnolo,
djr@cruzio.com (May 1997)



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NOTES

  [1] This article and the two that follow it [Transcriber's Note: See "Reply to P. Kievsky (Y. Pyatakov)" and "A Caricature of Marxism and Imperialist Economism". -- DJR] were directed against the un-Marxist and anti-Bolshevik attitude of the Bukharin-Pyatakov-Bosh group which began to take shape in the spring of 1915, when preparations were being made for publication of the magazine Kommunist. It was to be put out in co-operation with Sotsial-Demokrat. Y. L. Pyatakov (P. Kievsky) and Y. B. Bosh undertook to finance the magazine and N. I. Bukharin was made one of its editors. Lenin's differences with the group were accentuated after the appearance of No. 1-2 of Kommunist in September 1915. In their theses "On the Self-Determination Slogan", which they sent to Sotsial-Demokrat, Bukharin, Pyatakov and Bosh opposed Lenin's theory of socialist revolution, rejected the struggle for democracy in the imperialist era and insisted on the Party withdrawing its demand for national self-determination.
    The group did not confine itself to theoretical differences and openly attacked the Party's policy and slogans. It sought to use Kommunist in furtherance of its factional aims and tried to dictate terms to the editors of Sotsial-Dernokrat. Pyatakov and Bosh insisted on the Central Committee Bureau Abroad recognising them as a separate group not accountable to it and authorised to maintain independent connections with Central Committee members in Russia and publish leaflets and other literature. Thougth this demand was turned down, the group attempted to establish contact with the Central Committee Bureau in Russia.
    Lenin was sharply opposed to the Pyatakov-Bosh-Bukharin theses, saying that "we can take no responsibility for them, either direct or indirect -- even for harbouring them in the Party, Iet alone granting them equality". In letters to N. I. Bukharin, Y. L. Pyatakov, G. Y. Zinoviev and A. G. Shlyapnikov, Lenin trenchantly criticised the group's views and anti-Party, factional actions and condemned the conciliatory attitude of Zinoviev and Shlyapnikov. On his proposal, joint publication of Kornmunist by the Sotsial-Demokrat editors and the group was discontinued.
    The "Nascent Trend of Imperialist Economism" was written when the Sotsial-Demokrat editors had received Bukharin's comments on the theses "The Socialist Revolution and the Right of Nations to Self-Determination (Theses )". The article was not published at the time.    [p.13]

  [2] Economism was an opportunist trend in Russian Social-Democracy at the turn of the century, a Russian variety of international

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opportunism. The Economists limited the tasks of the working-class movement to the economic struggle for higher wages, better working conditions, etc., maintaining that the political slruggle shouId be left to the liberal bourgeoisie. They denied the leading role of the working-class party. Making a fetish of the spontaneity of the working-class movement, they belittled the importance of revolutionary theory and, by denying the need for a Marxist party to bring socialist consciousness into the working-class movement, cleared the way for bourgeois ideology. They championed the existing disunity, confusion and parochial amateurish approach in the Social-Democratic ranks, and opposed the creation of a centralised working-class party.
    Comprehensive criticism by Lenin of the Economist standpoint will be found in his "A Protest by Russian Social-Democrats", "A Retrograde Trend in Russian Social-Democracy", "Apropos of the Profession de Foi" and "A Talk with Defenders of Economism" (see present edition, Vol. 4, pp. 167-82, 255-85, 286-96, and Vol. 5 pp. 313-20). Lenin's What Is To Be Done? brought about the ideological rout of Economism (see present edition, Vol. 5, pp.347-529). A major part in the struggle against the Economists was also played by the newspaper Iskra.    [p.13]

  [3] Narodniks -- followers of a petty-bourgeois trend, Narodism, in the Russian revolutionary movement, which arose in the sixties and seventies of the nineteenth century. The Narodniks stood for the abolilion of the autocracy and the transfer of the landed estates to the peasantry. At the same time, they believed capitalism in Russia to be a temporary phenomenon with no prospect of development and they therefore considered the peasantry, not the proletariat, to be the main revolutionary force in Russia. They regarded the village commune as the embryo of socialism. With the object of rousing the peasantry to struggle against the autocracy, the Narodniks "went among the people", to the villages, but found no support there.
    In the eighties and nineties the Narodniks adopted a policy of conciliation to tsarism, expressed the interests of the kulak class and waged a bitter fight against Marxism.    [p.13]

  [4] Reference is to the article "Who Will Perform the Political Revolution?" in the symposium Proletarian Struggle No. 1, published by the Urals Social-Democratic Group in 1899. The artirle was republished as a pamphlet by the Kiev Committee. The author, A. A. Sanin, an Economist, was opposed to an independent working-class political party and political revolution, believing that Russia's socialist transformation, which he considered an immediate task, could be accomplished through a general strike.    [p.13]

  [5] Reference is to the Conference of R.S.D.L.P. groups abroad, held in Berne between February 14 and 19 (February 27-March 4), 1915. Convened on Lenin's initiative, it assumed the character of a

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general Party conference, since neither a Party congress nor an all-Russia conference could be convened during the war.
    The Conference was attended by representatives of the R.S.D.L.P. Central Committee, the R.S.D.L.P. Central Organ, Sotsial-Demokrat, the Social-Democrat Women's Organisation and delegates from R.S.D.L.P. groups in Paris, Zurich, Berne, Lausanne, Geneva, London and Baugy. All members of the Berne group and several members of the Lausanne and Baugy groups attended as guests. Lenin was delegated by the Central Committee and Central Organ and directed the work of the Conference.
    The main item on the agenda, the war and the tasks of the Party, was introduced by Lenin, who amplified the propositions set out in the CentraI Committee Manifesto, "The War and Russian Social-Democracy". The resolutions tabled by the Montpellier, and especially the Baugy, groups and adopted by tbe Conference revealed that some Party members had failed to grasp the implications of Lenin's proposition on civil war. They objected to the slogan of the defeat of one's "own" government and advanced their own slogan of peace, and failed to appreciate the need and importance of combating Centrism. All these questions were thrashed out in the debate, and Lenin's theses were unanimously approved. Only Bukharin persistently supported the erroneous views of the Baugy resolution and objected to the slogans Lenin had formulated for the Party and the international Social-Democratic movement. Bukharin opposed the right of nations to self-determination and the minimum-programme demands in general, contending that they were "contrary" to socialist revolution. However, no one supported Bukharin at the conference.    [p.13]

  [6] Reference is to Bukharin's theses "On the Self-Determination Slogan", written in November 1915 and submitted to the editors of Sotsial-Demokrat over the signatures of Bukharin, Pyatakov and Bosh.    [p.13]

  [7] This refers to the ''Programm-Entwurf der R.S.V. und der S.D.A.P. Hollands" ("Draft Programme of the Revolutionary-Socialist League and the Social-Democratic Labour Party of Holland") compiled by Henriette Roland-Holst and published on February 29, 1916 in No. 3 of the Bulletin of the International Socialist Committee over the signatures of Henriette Roland-Holst, J . Visseher, D. Wijnkoop and J. Ceton.
    The International Socialist Committee -- the executive body of the Zimmerwald group elected at the first Internalional Socialist Conference in Zimmerwald, September 5-8, 1915, and composed of Robert Grimm, Oddino Morgari, Charles Naine and A. Balabanova. Its headquarters were in Berne. Shortly after the Zimmerwald Conference, on Grimm's suggestion, a larger International Socialist Committee was formed, composed of representatives of all the parties subscribing to the Zimmerwald decisions. The R.S.D.L.P. Central Committee was represented on it by Lenin, Inessa Armand and Zinoviev. It published the Internationale Sozialistische

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Kommission zu Bern. Bulletin (Bulletin of the International Socialist Committee in Berne ) in German, French and English language editions. Six issues appeared between September 1915 and January 1917.    [p.14]

  [8] Vorbote (The Herald ) -- theoretical organ of the Zimmerwald Left published in German in Berne. Two issues appeared, in January and April 1916. The official publishers were Roland-Holst and Pannekoek.
    Lenin had an active share in founding the magazine and, after the appearance of its first issue, in organising a French edition to reach a wider readership. A keen discussion was conducted on its pages by Left Zimmerwaldists on the right of nations to self-determination and the "disarmament" slogan.    [p.14]

  [9] Sotsial-Demokrat -- illegal Central Organ of the R.S.D.L.P. published from February 1908 to January 1917. After unsuccessful attempts to issue the first number of the paper in Russia, publication was arranged abroad. Nos. 2-32 (February 1909-December 1913) were put out in Paris and Nos. 33-58 (November 1914-January 1917) in Geneva. Altogether, 58 issues appeared, five of which had supplements. From December 1911, Sotsial-Demokrat was edited by Lenin and carried more than 80 of his articles and shorter items.
    Lenin directed all the affairs of the paper, decided on the contents of the current issue, edited the various contributions and Iooked after the production side.
    During the First World War, Sotsial-Demokrat played an outstanding part in combating international opportunism, nationalism and chauvinism, in popularising the Bolshevik slogans and in awakening the working class and the working people generally for struggle against the imperialist war and its instigators, against the tsarist autocracy and capitalism. Sotsial-Demokrat also played a major part in uniting the internationalist forces in the Social-Democratic movement.    [p.14]

  [10] The Zimmerwald Left was formed on Lenin's initiative at the International Socialist Conference in Zimmerwald in September 1915. The group consisted of eight of the Conference delegates, representing the R.S.D.L.P. Central Committee, Left Social-Democrats in Sweden, Norway, Switzerland and Germany the Polish Social-Democratic opposition and the Latvian Social-Democrats. Led by Lenin, it combated the Centrist conference majority. Its draft resolutions and draft Manifesto condemning the war, exposing the treachery of the social-chauvinists and emphasising the need for active struggle against the war were rejected by the Centrist majority. However, the Zimmerwald Left did succeed in including in the adopted Manifesto a number of important points from its draft resolution. Regarding the Manifesto as a first step in the struggle against the imperialist war, the Zimmerwald Left voted for it, but in a special statement pointed out its inadequacy and inconsistency. At the same time, the group stated that while it would remain part

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of the Zimmerwald movement, it would continue to disseminate its views and conduct independent work internationally. It elected a Bureau, which included Lenin, Zinoviev and Radek, and published its own organ, Vorbote (see Note No. 8).
    The Bolsheviks, the only ones to take a correct and consistently internationalist position, were the leading force in the Zimmerwald Left. Lenin combated Radek's opportunist vacillations and criticised the mistakes of other members of the group.
    The Zimmerwald Left became the rallying point for internationalist elements in the world Social-Democratic movement (see also Note No. 36).    [p.14]

  [11] This meeting, held in Berne, February 5-9, 1916, was attended by 22 representatives of internationalist socialists in Germany, Russia, Italy, Norway, Austria, Poland, Switzerland, Bulgaria, Rumania and several more countries. The composition of the meeting was indicative of the changed alignment of forces in favour of the Left, though most of the delegates, as at the original Zimmerwald Conference, were Centrists.
    The meeting adopted an appeal to all affiliated parties and groups (Rundschreiben an alle angeschlossen Parteien und Gruppen), in which were included, as a result of pressure from the Bolsheviks and other Left forces, amendments in line with the Zimmerwald Left policy. The appeal condemned socialist participation in bourgeois governments, denounced the slogan of "fatherland defence" in an imperialist war and approval of war credits. It stressed the need to support the labour movement and prepare for mass revolutionary actions against the imperialist war. However, the appeal was inconsistent, since it did not call for a break with social-chauvinism and opportunism. Not all of Lenin's amendments were adopted. The Zimmerwald Lefts declared that though they did not consider the appeal satisfactory in all its points, they would vote for it as a step forward compared with the decisions of the first Zimmerwald Conference.    [p.14]

  [12] Rabochaya Mysl (Workers' Thought ) -- a newspaper published by a group of Economists in Russia from October 1897 to December 1902. A critique of the paper as representative of the Russian variety of international opportunism will be found in Lenin's What Is To Be Done?    [p.16]

  [13] Prosveshcheniye (Enlightenment ) -- a monthly theoretical, legal Bolshevik magazine, published in St. Petersburg from December 1911 to June 1914. Its circulation reached 5,000 copies. While in Paris, and later in Cracow and Poronin, Lenin directed the magazine, edited articles published in it and regularly corresponded with the members of the editorial board. Among his own articles published in Prosveshcheniye are the following: "Fundamental Problems of the Election Campaign", " The Three Sources and Three Component Parts of Marxism", "Critical Remarks on the Nalional Question", "The Right of Nations to Self-Determination'', "Disruption

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of Unity Concealed by Shouts for Unity" and "The Methods of Struggle of the Bourgeois Intellectuals Against the Workers".    [p.16]

  [14] Lenin is here referring to the programme of the French Workers' Party adopted in 1880, and to the programmes of the German Social-Democratic Party adopted in Gotha in 1875 and in Erfurt in 1891.    [p.16]

  [15] Reference is to the pamphlet Socialism and War (see present edition, Vol. 21, pp. 295-338).    [p.19]

  [16] Reference is to the Declaration of the Polish Social-Democrats at the 1915 Zimmerwald Conference. The Declaration protested against the oppressive policy of the tsarist and German and Austrian governments which "deprive the Polish people of the opportunity to shape their own destiny, regard the Polish lands as a pawn in future bargaining over compensation. . . ." "And this," the Declaration said, "brings out with especial crudity the very essence of the policy of the capitalist governments which, in sending the masses to the slaughter, are at the same time arbitrarily shaping the destinies of nations for generations to come." The Polish Social-Democrats, the Declaration said, are convinced that only participation in the impending struggle of the international revolutionary proletariat for socialism -- "in the struggle that will tear the fetters of national oppression and destroy alien domination in whatever form or shape -- will assure the Polish people, too, the opportunity for all-round development as an equal member of the alliance of the nations".    [p.21]