Bolshevik Writers: J. V. Stalin (1879-1953)

J. V. Stalin


Theses for the Twelfth Congress
of the Russian Communist Party (Bolsheviks)
Approved by the Central Committee
of the Party

Pravda, No. 65,
March 24, 1923

Signed: J. Stalin

From J. V. Stalin, Works
Foreign Languages Publishing House,
Moscow, 1953

Vol. 5, pp. 184-96.

Prepared © for the Internet by David J. Romagnolo, (April 2001)

    1.  Already in the last century the development of capitalism revealed the tendency to internationalise the modes of production and exchange, to eliminate national isolation, to bring peoples into closer economic relations, and gradually to unite vast territories into a single connected whole. The further development of capitalism, the development of the world market, the establishment of the great sea and rail routes, the export of capital, and so on, still further strengthened this tendency and bound peoples of the most diverse types by the ties of international division of labour and all-round mutual dependence. In so far as this process was a reflection of the colossal development of productive forces, in so far as it helped to destroy national aloofness and the opposition of interests of the various peoples, it was and is a progressive process, for it is creating the material prerequisites for the future world socialist economic system.

    2.  But this tendency developed in peculiar forms that were completely at variance with its intrinsic historical significance. The mutual dependence of peoples and the economic union of territories took place in the course of the development of capitalism not as a result of the co-operation of nations as entities with equal

rights, but by means of the subjugation of some nations by others, by means of the oppression and exploitation of less developed nations by more developed nations. Colonial plunder and annexations, national oppression and inequality, imperialist tyranny and violence, colonial slavery and national subjection, and, finally, the struggle among the "civilised" nations for domination over the "uncivilised" peoples -- such were the forms within which the development of closer economic relations of peoples took place. For that reason we find that, side by side with the tendency towards union, there arose a tendency to destroy the forcible forms of such union, a struggle for the liberation of the oppressed colonies and dependent nationalities from the imperialist yoke. Since the latter tendency signified a revolt of the oppressed masses against imperialist forms of union, since it demanded the union of nations on the basis of co-operation and voluntary union, it was and is a progressive tendency, for it is creating the spiritual prerequisites for the future world socialist economy.

    3.  The struggle between these two principal tendencies, expressed in forms that are natural to capitalism, filled the history of the multi-national bourgeois states during the last half-century. The irreconcilable contradiction between these tendencies within the framework of capitalist development was the underlying cause of the internal unsoundness and organic instability of the bourgeois colonial states. Inevitable conflicts: within such states and inevitable wars between them; the disintegration of the old colonial states and the formation of new ones; a new drive for colonies and a new disintegration of the multi-national states leading to a new

refashioning of the political map of the world -- such are the results of this fundamental contradiction.The break-up of the old Russia, of Austria-Hungary and of Turkey, on the one hand, and the history of such colonial states as Great Britain and the old Germany, on the other; and, lastly, the "great" imperialist war and the growth of the revolutionary movement of the colonial and unequal nations -- all these and similar facts clearly point to the instability and insecurity of the multi-national bourgeois states.

    Thus, the irreconcilable contradiction between the process of economic union of peoples and the imperialist methods of accomplishing this union was the cause of the inability, helplessness and impotence of the bourgeoisie in finding a correct approach to the solution of the national question.

    4.  Our Party took these circumstances into account and based its policy in the national question on the right of nations to self-determination, the right of peoples to independent state existence. The Party recognised this inalienable right of nations from the moment it came into being, at its first congress (in 1898), when the contradictions of capitalism in connection with the national question were not yet fully and clearly defined. Later it invariably re-affirmed its national programme-in special decisions and resolutions of its congresses and conferences, up to the October Revolution. The imperialist war, and the mighty revolutionary movement in the colonies to which it gave rise, only provided new confirmation of the correctness of the Party's decisions on the national question. The gist of these decisions is:

    a) emphatic repudiation of every form of coercion in relation to nationalities;

    b) recognition of the equality and sovereignty of peoples in determining their destinies;

    c) recognition of the principle that a durable union of peoples can be achieved only on the basis of co-operation and voluntary consent;

    d) proclamation of the truth that such a union can be realised only as the result of the overthrow of the power of capital.

    In the course of its work our Party never tired of advancing this programme of national liberation in opposition to the frankly oppressive policy of tsarism, and also to the half-hearted, semi-imperialist policy of the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries. Whereas the tsarist Russification policy created a gulf between tsarism and the non-Russian nationalities of the old Russia, and whereas the semi-imperialist policy of the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries caused the best elements among these nationalities to desert Kerenskyism, the liberation policy pursued by our Party won for it the sympathy and support of the broad masses among those nationalities in their struggle against tsarism and the imperialist Russian bourgeoisie. There can scarcely be any doubt that this sympathy and support was one of the decisive factors that determined the victory our Party achieved in the October days.

    5.  The October Revolution gave practical effect to our Party's decisions on the national question. By over throwing the power of the landlords and capitalists, the chief vehicles of national oppression, and by putting the proletariat in power, the October Revolution at one blow shattered the chains of national oppression, upset the old relations between peoples, struck at the root of

the old national enmity, cleared the way for the co-operation of peoples, and won for the Russian proletariat the confidence of its brothers of other nationalities not only in Russia, but also in Europe and Asia. It scarcely needs proof that had it not won this confidence, the Russian proletariat could not have defeated Kolchak and Denikin, Yudenich and Wrangel. On the other hand, there is no doubt that the oppressed nationalities could not have achieved their liberation if the dictatorship of the proletariat had not been established in central Russia. National enmity and national conflicts are inevitable, unavoidable, as long as capital is in power, as long as the petty bourgeoisie, and above all the peasantry of the formerly "dominant" nation, permeated as they are with nationalist prejudices, follow the capitalists; and, on the contrary, national peace and national freedom may be considered assured if the peasantry and the other petty-bourgeois sections of the population follow the proletariat, that is, if the dictatorship of the proletariat is assured. Hence, the victory of the Soviets and the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat are the basis, the foundation, on which the fraternal co-operation of peoples within a single state union can be built up.

    6.  But the results of the October Revolution are not limited to the abolition of national oppression and the creation of a basis for the union of peoples. In the course of its development the October Revolution also evolved the forms of this union and laid down the main lines for the union of the peoples in a single union state. In the first period of the revolution, when the labouring masses among the nationalities first began to feel that

they were independent national units, while the threat of foreign intervention had not yet become a real danger, co-operation between the peoples did not yet have a fully defined, well-established form. During the Civil War and intervention, when the requirements of the military self-defence of the national republics came into the forefront, while questions of economic construction were not yet on the order of the day, co-operation took the form of a military alliance. Finally, in the post-war period, when questions of the restoration of the productive forces destroyed by the war came into the forefront, the military alliance was supplemented by an economic alliance. The union of the national republics into the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics marks the concluding stage in the development of the forms of co-operation, which have now assumed the character of a military, economic and political union of peoples into a single, multi-national, Soviet state.

    Thus, in the Soviet system the proletariat found the key to the correct solution of the national question, discovered the way to organise a stable multi-national state on the basis of national equality of rights and voluntary consent.

    7.  But finding the key to the correct solution of the national question does not yet mean solving it fully and finally, does not yet mean giving the solution concrete and practical shape. In order to put into effect correctly the national programme advanced by the October Revolution, it is also necessary to surmount the obstacles which we have inherited from the past period of national oppression, and which cannot be surmounted at one stroke, in a short space of time.

    This heritage consists, firstly, in the survivals of dominant-nation chauvinism, which is a reflection of the former privileged position of the Great Russians. These survivals still persist in the minds of our Soviet officials, both central and local; they are entrenched in our state institutions, central and local; they are being reinforced by the "new," Smyena Vekh,[59] Great-Russian chauvinist spirit, which is becoming stronger and stronger owing to the N.E.P. In practice they find expression in an arrogantly disdainful and heartlessly bureaucratic attitude on the part of Russian Soviet officials towards the needs and requirements of the national republics. The multi-national Soviet state can become really durable, and the co-operation of the peoples within it really fraternal, only if these survivals are vigorously and irrevocably eradicated from the practice of our state institutions. Hence, the first immediate task of our Party is vigorously to combat the survivals of Great-Russian chauvinism.

    This heritage consists, secondly, in the actual, i.e., economic and cultural, inequality of the nationalities of the Union of Republics. The legal national equality won by the October Revolution is a great gain for the peoples, but it does not in itself solve the whole national problem. A number of republics and peoples, which have not gone through, or had scarcely entered, the stage of capitalism, which have no proletariat of their own, or scarcely any, and which are therefore backward economically and culturally, are incapable of making full use of the rights and opportunities afforded them by national equality of rights; they are incapable of rising to a higher level of development and thus catching up

with the nationalities which have forged ahead unless they receive real and prolonged assistance from outside. The causes of this actual inequality lie not only in the history of these peoples, but also in the policy pursued by tsarism and the Russian bourgeoisie, which strove to convert the border regions into areas producing nothing but raw materials and exploited by the industrially developed central districts. This inequality cannot be removed in a short space of time, this heritage cannot be eliminated in a year or two. The Tenth Congress of our Party already pointed out that "the abolition of actual national inequality is a lengthy process involving a stubborn and persistent struggle against all survivals of national oppression and colonial slavery."[60] But to overcome it is absolutely necessary. And it can be overcome only by the Russian proletariat rendering the backward peoples of the Union real and prolonged assistance in their economic and cultural advancement. Otherwise there can be no grounds for expecting the establishment of proper and durable co-operation of the peoples within the framework of the single union state. Hence, the second immediate task of our Party lies in the struggle to abolish the actual inequality of the nationalities, the struggle to raise the cultural and economic level of the backward peoples.

    This heritage consists, lastly, in the survivals of nationalism among a number of nations which have borne the heavy yoke of national oppression and have not yet managed to rid their minds of old national grievances. These survivals find practical expression in a certain national aloofness and the absence of full confidence of the formerly oppressed peoples in measures proceeding

from the Russians. However, in some of the republics which consist of several nationalities, this defensive nationalism often becomes converted into aggressive nationalism, into blatant chauvinism on the part of a strong nationality directed against the weak nationalities of these republics. Georgian chauvinism (in Georgia) directed against the Armenians, Ossetians, Ajarians and Abkhazians; Azerbaijanian chauvinism (in Azerbaijan) directed against the Armenians; Uzbek chauvinism (in Bukhara and Khorezm) directed against the Turkmenians and Kirghiz -- all these forms of chauvinism, which, moreover, are fostered by the conditions of the N.E.P. and by competition, are a grave evil which threatens to convert some of the national republics into arenas of squabbling and bickering. Needless to say, all these phenomena hinder the actual union of the peoples into a single union state. In so far as the survivals of nationalism are a distinctive form of defence against Great-Russian chauvinism, the surest means of overcoming them lies in a vigorous struggle against Great-Russian chauvinism. In so far, however, as these survivals become converted into local chauvinism directed against the weak national groups in individual republics, it is the duty of Party members to wage a direct struggle against these survivals. Thus, the third immediate task of our Party is to combat nationalist survivals and, primarily, the chauvinist forms of these survivals.

    8.  We must regard as one of the clear expressions of the heritage of the past the fact that a considerable section of Soviet officials in the centre and in the localities appraise the Union of Republics not as a union of state units with equal rights whose mission it is to guar-

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antee the free development of the national republics, but as a step towards the liquidation of those republics, as the beginning of the formation of what is called the "one and indivisible." Condemning this conception as anti-proletarian and reactionary, the congress calls upon members of the Party vigilantly to see to it that the union of the republics and the merging of the Commissariats are not utilised by chauvinistically-minded Soviet officials as a screen for their attempts to ignore the economic and cultural needs of the national republics. The merging of the Commissariats is a test for the Soviet apparatus: if this experiment were in practice to assume a dominant nation tendency, the Party would be compelled to adopt the most resolute measures against such a distortion, even to the extent of raising the question of annulling the merging of certain Commissariats until such time as the Soviet apparatus has been properly re-trained, so that it will pay genuinely proletarian and genuinely fraternal attention to the needs and requirements of the small and backward nationalities.

    9.  Since the Union of Republics is a new form of co-existence of peoples, a new form of their co-operation within a single union state, from which the survivals described above must be eliminated in the course of the joint activities of the peoples, the supreme organs of the Union must be formed in such a way as fully to reflect not only the common needs and requirements of all the nationalities of the Union, but also the special needs and requirements of each individual nationality. Therefore, in addition to the existing central organs of the Union, which represent the labouring masses of the entire Union irrespective of nationality, a special organ should be

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created representing the nationalities on the basis of equality. Such a structure of the central organs of the Union would make it fully possible to lend an attentive ear to the needs and requirements of the peoples, to render them the necessary aid in good time, to create an atmosphere of complete mutual confidence, and thus eliminate the above-mentioned heritage in the most painless way.

    10.  On the basis of the above, the congress recommends that the members of the Party secure the accomplishment of the following practical measures:

    a) within the system of higher organs of the Union a special organ should be instituted that will represent all the national republics and national regions without exception on the basis of equality;

    b) the Commissariats of the Union should be constructed in such a way as to ensure the satisfaction of the needs and requirements of the peoples of the Union;

    c) the organs of the national republics and regions should be staffed mainly with people from among the local inhabitants who know the language, manner of life, habits and customs of the peoples concerned.



    1.  The development of our Party organisations in the majority of the national republics is proceeding under conditions not entirely favourable for their growth and consolidation. The economic backwardness of these republics, the small size of their national proletariat, the shortage, or even absence, of cadres of old Party workers belonging to the local population, the lack of serious Marxist literature in the native languages, the weak-

ness of Party educational work, and, further, the presence of survivals of radical-nationalist traditions, which have not yet been completely effaced, have given rise among the local Communists to a definite deviation towards overrating the specifically national features and underrating the class interests of the proletariat, to a deviation towards nationalism. This phenomenon is becoming particularly dangerous in republics where there are several nationalities, where, among the Communists of a stronger nationality, it frequently assumes the form of a deviation towards chauvinism directed against the Communists of the weak nationalities (Georgia, Azerbaijan, Bukhara, Khorezm). The deviation towards nationalism is harmful because, by hindering the process of liberation of the national proletariat from the ideological influence of the national bourgeoisie, it impedes the work of uniting the proletarians of the various nationalities into a single internationalist organisation.

    2.  On the other hand, the presence both in the central Party institutions and in Communist Party organisations of the national republics of numerous cadres of old Party workers of Russian origin who are unfamiliar with the habits, customs and language of the labouring masses of these republics, and who for this reason are not always attentive to their requirements, has given rise in our Party to a deviation towards underrating the specifically national features and the national language in Party work, to an arrogant and disdainful attitude towards these specific features -- a deviation towards Great-Russian chauvinism. This deviation is harmful not only because, by hindering the formation of communist cadres from local inhabitants who know the national language, it creates the danger that the Party may be come isolated from the proletarian masses of the national republics, but also, and primarily, because it fosters and breeds the above-mentioned deviation towards nationalism and impedes the struggle against it.

    3.  Condemning both these deviations as harmful and dangerous to the cause of communism, and drawing the attention of the Party members to the exceptional harmfulness and exceptional danger of the deviation towards Great-Russian chauvinism, the congress calls upon the Party speedily to eliminate these survivals of the past from our Party work.

    The congress instructs the Central Committee to earry out the following practical measures:

    a) to form advanced Marxist study circles among the local Party workers of the national republics;

    b) to develop a literature based on Marxist principles in the native languages;

    c) to strengthen the University of the Peoples of the East and its local branches;

    d) to establish under the Central Committees of the national Communist Parties groups of instructors recruited from among local Party workers;

    e) to develop a Party literature for the masses in the native languages;

    f) to intensify Party educational work in the republics;

    g) to intensify work among the youth in the republics.


      [58] The draft of the theses on the national question for the Twelfth Party Congress was discussed at a Plenum of the Central Committee of the R.C.P.(B.) on February 21, 1923. A commission headed by J. V. Stalin was set up to make the final draft. On March 22, the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the R.C.P. (B.) examined and endorsed the theses, and on March 24 they were published in Pravda, No. 65.    [p. 184]

      [59] Smyena Vekh (Change of Landmarks) -- a bourgeois political trend that arose in 1921 among the Russian whiteguard émigrés abroad. It was headed by a group consisting of N. Ustryalov, Y. Kluchnikov, and others, who published the magazine Smyena Vekh (at first a symposium was published with this title): The Smyena-Vekhist ideology expressed the views of that section of the bourgeoisie which had abandoned the open armed struggle against the Soviet Government. They considered that with the adoption of the New Economic Policy the Soviet system would gradually change into bourgeois democracy.    [p. 190]

      [60] See the resolution of the Tenth Congress of the R.C.P.(B.) on "The Immediate Tasks of the Party in the National Question" in "Resolutions and Decisions of C.P.S.U.(B.) Congresses, Conferences and Central Committee Plenums," Part I, 1941, p. 386.    [p. 191]