ENGLISH

 


 

LENIN

ON THE CAPITALIST CRISIS

collection of quotations - arranged by Wolfgang Eggers

on occasion of Lenin's 142nd Birthday (* 22. 04. 1870)

 

 

A. GENERAL CRISIS

B. ECONOMIC CRISIS

 

 

 

A. GENERAL CRISIS

 

 

 

 

18, April 16, 1911.

The notorious Cabinet and political crisis of which so much has been written in the press, poses more profound questions than the liberals, who are making the most noise about it, think. They say that the crisis confronts us with the problem of violation of the Constitution. Actually what the crisis confronts us with is the Cadets’ and the Octobrists’ mistaken conception of the Constitution, the profound delusion entertained on that score by the two parties. The more widespread this delusion becomes the more insistently must we explain it. The more the Cadets try to use their accusations against the Octobrists as a means of peddling their wrong ideas about the allegedly “constitutional” character of the crisis, ideas common to the Octobrists and the Cadets, the more important it is to explain this community of ideas now being revealed.

Let us take the recent reflections of Rech and Russkiye Vedomosti on the slogan for the elections to the Fourth Duma. For or against the Constitution—that, say the two main Cadet publications, is how the question is being and will continue to be presented.

Now take a look at the reasoning of the Octobrists. Here is a typical article by Mr. Gromoboi in Golos Moskvy for March 30. It is entitled “A Disturbed Ant-Hill”. The Octobrist publicist tries to persuade those, in his opinion, conscientious defenders of Mr. Stolypin who “fear the idea of joining the opposition” by proving to them “that they are taking the wrong steps”. “To a constitutionalist,” exclaims Mr. Gromoboi, “there can be no graver sin than the violation of the Constitution.” What can be said on the essence of the matter? asks Mr. Gromoboi; and answering, says:

Again the flintlock, nationalism, volitional impulses, state necessity? Alas, we have heard all that before, and we have also heard promises that were not justified.”

To the Octobrists (and to the Vekhi writers who under stood most deeply and expressed most vividly the spirit of Cadetism) Stolypin’s policy was an attractive “promise”. This “promise”, the Octobrists confess, was not justified.

What does that mean?

Actually, Stolypin’s policy was not a promise, but has been the stark political and economic reality of Russian life in the last four (or even five) years. Both June 3, 1907, and November 9, 1906 (June 14, 1910), were not promises but reality. This reality has been put over and enforced by the representatives of the big landowning nobility and of the élite of the merchant and industrial capitalists, organised on a national scale. When today the spokesman of the Octobrist, Moscow (and, consequently, the all-Russia) capitalists says—“they have not been justified”—that sums up a definite phase of political history, a definite system of attempts to satisfy, through the Third Duma, through Stolypin’s agrarian policy, etc., the demands of the epoch, the demands of Russia’s capitalist development. The Octobrist capitalists worked conscientiously and assiduously, sparing nothing—not even their pockets—to help these attempts; but now they are obliged to confess that the promise has not justified itself.

Consequently, it is not a matter of broken promises, or of “violation of the Constitution”—for it is ridiculous to dissociate March 14, 1911, from June 3, 1907; the point is that the demands of the epoch cannot be satisfied through what the Octobrists and the Cadets call the “Constitution”.

The “Constitution” which gave the majority to the Cadets in the First and Second Dumas could not satisfy the demands of the times, nor can these be satisfied by the “Constitution” which made the Octobrists the decisive party (in the Third Duma). When today the Octobrists say—“they have not been justified”, the meaning of this confession, and of the crisis which has extorted it, is that the constitutional illusions both of the Cadets and of the Octobrists have again been shattered, this time finally and completely.

The democratic movement jolted the old out of its groove. The Cadets deprecated the “excesses” of the democratic movement and promised to accomplish the new by peaceful, “constitutional” means. These hopes were not justified. It was Mr. Stolypin who tackled the job of accomplishing the new—but in such a way as to ensure that the changed forms would reinforce the old, that the organisation of the diehard landowners and of the pillars of capital would fortify the old, and that the substitution of private ownership of land for the village commune would create a new stratum of defenders of the old. For years the Octobrists, working hand in glove with Mr. Stolypin, tried to bring this about, “unhampered by the menace” of the democratic movement which for the time being had been suppressed.

These hopes have not been justified.

What has been justified is the words of those who pointed out the futility and harmfulness of constitutional illusions in epochs of rapid and radical changes such as the early twentieth century in Russia.

The three years of the Third, Octobrist Duma, and of its Octobrist “Constitution”, of the Octobrists’ “life of peace and love” with Stolypin, have not vanished without leaving a trace: the country has made further economic progress, and all and sundry “Right” political parties have developed, grown, shown their worth (and have spent themselves).

The agrarian policy of the Third Duma has shown itself in operation in most of the villages and in the most out-of-the-way parts of Russia, where it has stirred up the discontent that had lain dormant for centuries, unceremoniously revealing and accentuating the existing antagonisms, emboldening the kulak and enlightening those at the other end of the scale. The Third Duma has had its effect. And so have the first two Dumas, which produced so many good, well-meaning, innocuous and impotent wishes. The collapse of the constitutional illusions of the years 1906 to 1910, incomparably more pronounced, has been revealed within the shell of the “constitutional” crisis of 1911.

In point of fact, both Cadets and Octobrists alike based their policy on these illusions. They were the illusions of the liberal bourgeoisie, the illusions of the Centre, and there is no essential difference between the “Left” Centre (the   Cadets) and the “Right” Centre (the Octobrists), since, owing to objective conditions, both were doomed to failure. The old has been jolted out of its groove. But neither the Left nor the Right Centre has achieved the new. Who is going to accomplish this inescapable and historically inevitable new, and how, that is a moot question. The “constitutional” crisis is significant because the Octobrists, the masters of the situation, have admitted that this question is again an “open” one; they have written “unjustified” across even their apparently most “valid” aspirations, aspirations which are valid from the merchant’s point of view, and are commercially sober and modest. The “constitutional” crisis is significant because the experience of the Octobrists has revealed the extreme narrowness, poverty and impotence of the Cadets’ catchword—who is for the Constitution, and who is against it.

The democratic movement has shown this slogan to be inadequate. The Octobrist movement has corroborated it by the experience of yet another phase of Russian history. The Cadets will not succeed in dragging Russia back to the former naïve constitutional illusions.

“The orthodox Octobrists,” writes Mr, Gromoboi, “are having a fit of nerves; they declare that they will resign from the Bureau, and do not know what to do about their fellow-constitutionalists. Their agitation is unjustified. They should remain calm in the knowledge that truth is on their side, and that this truth is so elementary, so universally recognised, that it does not need a Copernicus or a Galileo to prove it. They should go on calmly doing their duty—declare that unlawful actions are unlawful, and without fail, making no compromises, reject the unlawful law.”

That is an illusion, Mr. Gromoboi! You cannot dispense with “a Copernicus and a Galileo”. Your own efforts have brought no “justification”, you will not manage without them.

“When we contemplate this disturbed, teeming ant-hill—the servile press, servile orators, servile deputies [and, you might add, Mr. Gromoboi: the servile, slavish bourgeoisie]—we can only out of humanity pity them and gently remind them that they can no longer serve P. A. Stolypin; they can only cringe before him.”

But P. A. Stolypin is not unique—he is typical; he is not an isolated individual, but is “hand in glove” with the Council of the United Nobility. The Octobrists have tried to live in harmony with him under the new conditions—under the conditions of a Duma, of a “Constitution”, of the bourgeois policy of ruining the village commune à la Tolmachov. And if they failed in the attempt, it is by no means Stolypin’s fault.

“...After all, the entire strength of people’s representatives is derived from their contact with the people; and if they [the Right Octobrists] lose ... their ‘identity’ by the very fact that they are giving such support [support to Stolypin and his violation of the Constitution], what will they be worth then?”

So this is what we have come to! Octobrists speak of “contact with the people” as the source of “strength of people’s representatives”! That is really funny. But no more so than the Cadet speeches in the First and Second Dumas about “contact with the people” alongside their speeches, say, against local land committees. The words which sound funny when uttered by Cadets and Octobrists are by no means funny in themselves; they are significant. For—despite the intentions of those who utter these words today—they express, once more, the collapse of constitutional illusions—which is a useful by-product of the “constitutional” crisis.

Lenin, Collected Works, Volume 17, pages 168, 169, 170, 171 and 172; "The meaning of the crisis".

 

 

December 12, 1914

The European war is a tremendous historical crisis, the beginning of a new epoch. Like any crisis, the war has aggravated deep-seated antagonisms and brought them to the surface, tearing asunder all veils of hypocrisy, rejecting all conventions and deflating all corrupt or rotting authorities. (This, incidentally, is the salutary and progressive effect of all crises, which only the dull-witted adherents of “peaceful evolution” fail to realise.) 

Lenin, Collected Works, Volume 21, page 98, "Dead Chauvinism and Living Socialism - HOW THE INTERNATIONAL CAN BE RESTORED"

 

 

July 1916

 Every crisis discards the conventionalities, tears away the outer    wrappings, sweeps away the obsolete and reveals the underlying springs and forces.

...

[the movement of oppressed nations] proves that, owing to the crisis of imperialism, the flames of national revolt have flared up both in the colonies and in Europe, and that national sympathies and antipathies have manifested themselves in spite of the Draconian threats and measures of repression. All this before the crisis of imperialism hit its peak; the power of the imperialist bourgeoisie was yet to be undermined (this may he brought about by a war of “attrition” but has not yet happened) and the proletarian movements in the imperialist countries were still very feeble. What will happen when the war has caused complete exhaustion, or when, in one state at least, the power of the bourgeoisie has been shaken under the blows of proletarian struggle, as that of tsarism in 1905?

Lenin, Collected Works, Volume 22, page 353 - 354; "The Discussion On Self-Determination Summed Up"

 

 

 

August - October 1917

If they  [the undeveloped and oppressed nations] take advantage even of such a bourgeois imperialist crisis as the war of 1915-16—a minor crisis compared with social revolution—to rise in revolt (the colonies, Ireland), there can be no doubt that they will all the more readily take advantage of the great crisis of civil war in the advanced countries to rise in revolt.

The social revolution can come only in the form of an epoch in which are combined civil war by the proletariat against the bourgeoisie in the advanced countries and a whole series of democratic and revolutionary movements, including the national liberation movement, in the undeveloped, backward and oppressed nations.

Why? Because capitalism develops unevenly, and objective reality gives us highly developed capitalist nations side by side with a number of economically slightly developed, or totally undeveloped, nations.

Lenin, Collected Works, Volume 23, page 60, "A caricature of Marxism".

 

 

March 7 (20), 1917

For the first great Revolution of 1905, [...]  led after the lapse of twelve years, to the “brilliant”, the “glorious” Revolution of 1917 [...]  this required a great, mighty and all-powerful “stage manager”, capable, on the one hand, of vastly accelerating the course of world history, and, on the other, of engendering world-wide crises of unparalleled intensity—economic, political, national and international. This all-powerful “stage manager”, this mighty accelerator was the imperialist world war.

 Lenin, Collected Works, Volume 23, page 60, "A caricature of Marxism".

 

 

March 11 (24), 1917

What we do know definitely, and what we, as a party, must explain to the masses is, on the one hand, the immense power of the locomotive of history that is engendering an unprecedented crisis, starvation and incalculable hardship. That locomotive is the war, waged for predatory aims by the capitalists of both belligerent camps. This “locomotive” has brought a number of the richest, freest and most enlightened nations to the brink of doom. It isforcing the peoples to strain to the utmost all their energies, placing them in unbearable conditions, putting on the order of the day not the application of certain “theories” (an illusion against which Marx always warned socialists), but implementation of the most extreme practical measures; for without extreme measures, death—immediate and certain death from starvation—awaits millions of people.

Lenin, Collected Works, Volume 23, page 330, "Letters from afar" (third letter).

 

May 5 (April 22), 1917

This is the essence of the crisis and it should be clearly distinguished from the opinions, expectations, and suppositions of single individuals and parties.

The masses should be told the whole truth. The government of the capitalists cannot abandon annexations; it is caught in its own meshes, and there is no escape. It feels, it realises, it sees that without revolutionary measures (of which only a revolutionary class is capable) there is no way out, and it is becoming panicky, losing its head; it promises one thing, but does another; at one minute it threatens the masses with violence (Guchkov and Shingaryov), at the next it proposes that the power be taken out of its hands.

Economic ruin, crisis, the horrors of war, an impasse from which there is no way out—this is what the capitalists have brought all the nations to.

Indeed there is no way out—except through the transfer of power to the revolutionary class, to the revolutionary proletariat, which alone, supported by the majority of the population, is capable of aiding the revolution to victory in all the belligerent countries and leading humanity to lasting peace and liberation from the yoke of capitalism.

Lenin, Collected Works, Volume 24, page 205 - 206, "Honest defencism reveals itself".

 

 

April 22 (May 5), 1917 

Our task now is to make a careful study of the forces, the classes, that revealed themselves in the crisis, and to draw the relevant lessons for our proletarian party. For it is the great significance of all crises that they make manifest what has been hidden; they cast aside all that is relative, superficial, and trivial; they sweep away the political litter and reveal the real mainsprings of the class struggle.

This means that the broad, unstable, and vacillating mass, which is closest to the peasantry and which by its scientific class definition is petty-bourgeois, swung away from the capitalists towards the revolutionary workers. It was the swing or movement of this mass, strong enough to be a decisive factor, that caused the crisis.

It was at this point that other sections began to stir: not the middle but the extreme elements, not the intermediary petty bourgeoisie but the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, started to come out on to the streets and organise.

The bourgeoisie shouted about the “spectre of civil war”, thus expressing its fear that the real masses, the actual majority of the nation, might seize power. The petty-bourgeois leaders of the Soviet, the Mensheviks and Narodniks—who since the revolution in general, and during the crisis in particular, have had no definite party policy—allowed themselves to be intimidated. In the Executive Committee almost half the votes were cast against the Provisional Government on the eve of the crisis, but now thirty-four votes (with nineteen against) are cast in favour of returning to a policy of confidence in and agreement with the capitalists.

And the “incident” was considered “settled”.

What is the essence of the class struggle? The capitalists are for dragging out the war under cover of empty phrases and false promises. They are caught in the meshes of Russian, Anglo-French and American banking capital. The proletariat, as represented by its class-conscious vanguard, stands for the transfer of power to the revolutionary class, the working class and the semi-proletarians, for the development of a world workers’ revolution, a revolution which is clearly developing also in Germany, and for terminating the war by means of such a revolution.

The world situation is growing more and more involved. The only way out is a world workers’ revolution.

The lesson is clear, comrade workers! There is no time to be lost. The first crisis will be followed by others.

You must devote all your efforts to enlightening the backward, to making extensive, comradely and direct contact (not only by meetings) with every regiment and with every group of working people who have not had their eyes opened yet! All your efforts must be devoted to consolidating your own ranks, to organising the workers from the bottom upwards, including every district, every factory, every quarter of the capital and its suburbs! Do not be misled by those of the petty bourgeoisie ’who “compromise” with the capitalists, by the defencists and by the “supporters”, nor by individuals who are inclined to be in a hurry and to shout “Down with the Provisional Government!” before the majority of the people are solidly united. The crisis cannot be over come by violence practised by individuals against individuals, by the local action of small groups of armed people, by Blanquist attempts to “seize power”, to “arrest” the Provisional Government, etc.

Lenin, Collected Works, Volume 24, pages 213 - 216, "Lessons of the crisis".

 

 

APRIL 24–29, 1917

The world war, brought about by the struggle of world trusts and banking capital for domination over the world market, has already led to the mass destruction of material values, to exhaustion of productive forces, and to such a growth in the war industry that it is impossible to produce even the absolutely necessary minimum of consumer goods and means of production.

The present war, therefore, has brought humanity to an impasse and placed it on the brink of ruin.

The objective conditions for a socialist revolution, which undoubtedly existed even before the war in the more developed and advanced countries, have been ripening with tremendous rapidity as a result of the war. Small and middle enterprises are being squeezed out and ruined at a faster rate than ever. The concentration and internationalisation of capital are making gigantic strides; monopoly capitalism is developing into state monopoly capitalism. In a number of countries regulation of production and distribution by society is being introduced by force of circumstances. Some countries are introducing universal labour conscription.

Under private ownership of the means of production, all these steps towards greater monopolisation and control of production by the state are inevitably accompanied by intensified exploitation of the working people, by an increase in oppression; it becomes more difficult to resist the exploiters, and reaction and military despotism grow. at the same time these steps inevitably lead to a tremendous growth in the profits of the big capitalists at the expense of all other sections of the population. The working people for decades to come are forced to pay tribute to the capitalists in the form of The world war, brought about by the struggle of world trusts and banking capital for domination over the world market, has already led to the mass destruction of material values, to exhaustion of productive forces, and to such a growth in the war industry that it is impossible to produce even the absolutely necessary minimum of consumer goods and means of production. The present war, therefore, has brought humanity to an impasse and placed it on the brink of ruin. The objective conditions for a socialist revolution, which undoubtedly existed even before the war in the more developed and advanced countries, have been ripening with tremendous rapidity as a result of the war. Small and middle enterprises are being squeezed out and ruined at a faster rate than ever. The concentration and internationalisation of capital are making gigantic strides; monopoly capitalism is developing into state monopoly capitalism. In a number of countries regulation of production and distribution by society is being introduced by force of circumstances. Some countries are introducing universal labour conscription. Under private ownership of the means of production, all these steps towards greater monopolisation and control of production by the state are inevitably accompanied by intensified exploitation of the working people, by an increase in oppression; it becomes more difficult to resist the exploiters, and reaction and military despotism grow. at the same time these steps inevitably lead to a tremendous growth in the profits of the big capitalists at the expense of all other sections of the population. The working people for decades to come are forced to pay tribute to the capitalists in the form of interest payments on war loans running into thousands of millions. But with private ownership of the means of production abolished and state power passing completely to the proletariat, these very conditions are a pledge of success for society’s transformation that will do away with the exploitation of man by man and ensure the well-being of everyone.

Lenin; Collected Works, Volume 24, page 309; "The Seventh (April) All-Russia Conference of the R.S.D.L.P.(B.); Resolution on the Current Situation".

 

 

 

May 15 (2), 1917.

This cannot go on for long. Such a state of affairs is bound every day to cause new “incidents” and fresh complications. It is easy enough to inscribe on a bit of paper “the incident is settled”. In real life, however, these incidents do not disappear. And this for the simple reason that they are not “incidents” at all, they are not chance happenings, not trifles. They are the outward signs of a deep-rooted inner crisis. They are a result of the impasse in which humanity now finds itself.

  A change of personalities will give nothing; the whole policy must be changed. Another class must assume power.  A change of personalities will give nothing; the whole policy must be changed. Another class must assume power. A government of workers and soldiers would be trusted by the whole world, for everyone knows that a worker and a poor peasant would want to rob no one. Only this can put a speedy end to the war, only this can help us through the economic debacle. A government of workers and soldiers would be trusted by the whole world, for everyone knows that a worker and a poor peasant would want to rob no one. Only this can put a speedy end to the war, only this can help us through the economic debacle.

Lenin; Collected Works, Volume 24, pages 332-334 ; The “Crisis of Power”

 

 

April 23, 1929

 It would be impossible to put an end to the rule of capitalism if the whole course of economic development in the capitalist countries did not lead up to it. The war has speeded up this process, and this has made capitalism impossible. No power could destroy capitalism if it were not sapped and undermined by history.

Lenin; Collected Works, Volume 24, page 417, "War and Revolution".

 

 

April – May, 1917 

World capitalism has at the present time, i.e., about the beginning of the twentieth century, reached the stage of imperialism. Imperialism, or the epoch of finance capital, is a high stage of development of the capitalist economic system, one in which monopolist associations of capitalists—syndicates, cartels, and trusts—have assumed decisive importance; in which enormously concentrated banking capital has fused with industrial capital; in which the export of capital to foreign countries has assumed vast dimensions; in which the whole world has been divided up territorially among the richer countries, and the economic carve-up of the world among international trusts has begun.

Imperialist wars, i.e., wars for world domination, for markets for banking capital and for the subjugation of small and weaker nations, are inevitable under such a state of affairs. The first great imperialist war, the war of 1914–17, is precisely such a war.

The extremely high level of development which world capitalism in general has attained, the replacement of free competition by monopoly capitalism, the fact that the banks and the capitalist associations have prepared the machinery for the social regulation of the process of production and distribution of products, the rise in the cost of living and increased oppression of the working class by the syndicates due to the growth of capitalist monopolies, the tremendous World capitalism has at the present time, i.e., about the beginning of the twentieth century, reached the stage of imperialism. Imperialism, or the epoch of finance capital, is a high stage of development of the capitalist economic system, one in which monopolist associations of capitalists—syndicates, cartels, and trusts—have assumed decisive importance; in which enormously concentrated banking capital has fused with industrial capital; in which the export of capital to foreign countries has assumed vast dimensions; in which the whole world has been divided up territorially among the richer countries, and the economic carve-up of the world among international trusts has begun. Imperialist wars, i.e., wars for world domination, for markets for banking capital and for the subjugation of small and weaker nations, are inevitable under such a state of affairs. The first great imperialist war, the war of 1914–17, is precisely such a war. The extremely high level of development which world capitalism in general has attained, the replacement of free competition by monopoly capitalism, the fact that the banks and the capitalist associations have prepared the machinery for the social regulation of the process of production and distribution of products, the rise in the cost of living and increased oppression of the working class by the syndicates due to the growth of capitalist monopolies, the tremendous obstacles standing in the way of the proletariat’s economic and political struggle, the horrors, misery, ruin, and brutalisation caused by the imperialist war—all these factors transform the present stage of capitalist development into an era of proletarian socialist revolution. That era has dawned. Only a proletarian socialist revolution can lead humanity out of the impasse which imperialism and imperialist wars have created. That era has dawned. Only a proletarian socialist revolution can lead humanity out of the impasse which imperialism and imperialist wars have created.

Lenin; Collected Works, Volume 24, pages 459 - 460; "2 - Proposed Amendments to the Doctrinal, Political and Other Sections of the Programme".

 

 

May 25 (June 7), 1917

1. The complete disruption of Russia’s economic life has now reached a point where catastrophe is unavoidable, a catastrophe of such appalling dimensions that a number of essential industries will be brought to a standstill, the farmer will be prevented from conducting farming on the necessary scale, and railway traffic will be interrupted with a consequent stoppage of grain deliveries to the industrial population and the cities, involving millions of people. What is more, the break-down has already started, and has affected various industries. Only by the greatest exertion of all the nation’s forces and the adoption of a number of immediate revolutionary measures, both in the local areas and at the centre of government, can this debacle be effectively coped with.

2. Neither by bureaucratic methods, i.e., the setting up of institutions in which the capitalists and officials preponderate, nor by preserving the profits of the capitalists, their supreme rule in industry, their supremacy over finance capital, and their commercial secrets as regards their banking, commercial, and industrial transactions, can the disaster be averted. This has been amply proved by the partial effects of the crisis as revealed in a number of industries.

3. The only way to avert disaster is to establish effectual workers’ control over the production and distribution of goods. For the purpose of such control it is necessary, first of all, that the workers should have a majority of not less than three-fourths of all the votes in all the decisive institutions and that the owners who have not withdrawn from their business and the engineering staffs should be enlisted without fail; secondly, that shop committees, the central and local Soviets, as well as the trade unions, should have the right to participate in this control, that all commercial and bank books be open to their inspection, and that the management supply them with all the necessary information; third, that a similar right should be granted to representatives of all the major democratic and socialist parties.

4. Workers’ control, which the capitalists in a number of conflict cases have already accepted, should, by means of various well-considered measures introduced gradually but without any delay, be developed into full regulation of the production and distribution of goods by the workers.

5. Workers’ control should similarly be extended to all financial and banking operations with the aim of discovering the true financial state of affairs; such control to be participated in by councils and conventions of bank, syndicate and other employees, which are to be organised forthwith.

6. To save the country from disaster the workers and peasants must first of all be inspired with absolute and positive assurance, conveyed by deeds and not by words, that the governing bodies both in the local areas and at the centre will not hesitate to hand over to the people the bulk of the profits, incomes, and property of the great banking, financial, commercial, and industrial magnates of capitalist economy. Unless this measure is carried out, it is futile to demand or expect real revolutionary measures or any real revolutionary effort on the part of the workers and peasants.

7. In view of the break-down of the whole financial and monetary system and the impossibility of rehabilitating it while the war is on, the aim of the state organisation should be to organise on a broad, regional, and subsequently country-wide, scale the exchange of agricultural implements, clothes, boots and other goods for grain and other farm products. The services of the town and rural co-operative societies should be widely enlisted.

8. Only when these measures have been carried out will it be possible and necessary to introduce general and compulsory labour service. This measure, in turn, calls for the establishment of a workers’ militia, in which the workers are to serve without pay after their regular eight-hour day; this to be followed, by the introduction of a nation-wide people’s   militia in which the workers and other employees shall be paid by the capitalists. Only such a workers’ militia and the people’s militia that will grow out of it could and should introduce universal compulsory labour service, not by bureaucratic means and in the interests of the capitalists, but to save the country from the impending debacle. Only such a militia could and should introduce real revolutionary discipline and get the whole people to make that supreme effort necessary for averting disaster. Only universal compulsory labour service is capable of ensuring the maximum economy in the expenditure of labour-power.

9. Among the measures aimed at saving the country from disaster, one of the most important tasks is that of engaging a large labour force in the production of coal and raw materials, and for work in the transport services. No less important is it that the workers employed in producing ammunition should be gradually switched over to producing goods necessary for the country’s economic rehabilitation.

10. The systematic and effective implementation of all these measures is possible only if all the power in the state passes to the proletarians and semi-proletarians.

Lenin, Collected Works, Volume 24, pages 513 - 515, "Resolution on Measures to Cope with Economic Disorganisation".

 

Full Text:

The Impending Catastrophe and How to Combat It

written 10th - 14th of September 1917

published at the end of October 1917

 Lenin Collected Works,, Volume 25, pages 323-369.

 

 

MARCH 6-8, 1910

Marxists have never forgotten that violence must inevitably accompany the collapse of capitalism in its entirety and the birth of socialist society. That violence will constitute a period of world history, a whole era of various kinds of wars, imperialist. wars, civil wars inside countries the intermingling of the two, national wars liberating the nationalities oppressed by the imperialists and by various combinations of imperialist powers that will inevitably enter into various alliances in the epoch of tremendous state-capitalist and military trusts and syndicates. This epoch, an epoch of gigantic cataclysms, of mass decisions forcibly imposed by war, of crises.

 Lenin Collected Works,, Volume 27, page 130; "Extraordinary Seventh Congress of the R.C.P.(B.)"

 

 

May 9, 1918

No serious politician will ever say when this or that collapse of a “system” “must begin” (the more so that the collapse of the system has already begun, and it is now a question of the moment when the outbreak of revolution in particular countries will begin).

Lenin Collected Works,, Volume 27, page 327; “Left-Wing” Childishness

 

 

 

May 14, 1918

The contradictions that have arisen out of the frenzied struggle between the imperialist powers drawn into a war which is the result of the economic conditions of the development of capitalism over a number of decades, have made it impossible for the imperialists themselves to stop this war.

Owing to these contradictions, it has come about that the general alliance of the imperialists of all countries, forming the basis of the economic alliance of capitalism, an alliance whose natural and inevitable aim is to defend capital, which recognises no fatherland, and which has proved in the course of many major and important episodes in world history that capital places the safeguarding of the alliance of the capitalists of all countries against the working people above the interests of the fatherland, of the people or of what you will—that this alliance is not the moving force of politics.

Of course, as before, this alliance remains the main economic trend of the capitalist system, a trend which must ultimately make itself felt with inevitable force. That the imperialist war has divided into hostile groups, into hostile coalitions the imperialist powers which at the present moment, one may say, have divided up the whole world among themselves, is an exception to this main tendency of capitalism. This enmity, this struggle, this death grapple, proves that in certain circumstances the alliance of world imperialism is impossible.

Lenin Collected Works,, Volume 27, page 366 - 367; “Report on foreign policy"

 

May 22, 1918

We know how small is the section of advanced and politically conscious workers in Russia. We also know the plight of the people and know that the broad masses are certain to realise that we cannot get out of the situation by half-measures, that there will have to be a proletarian revolution. We live at a time when countries are being ruined and millions of people are doomed to perish or subjected to military slavery. Hence, the revolution that history has forced on us, not by the evil will of individuals, but because the entire capitalist system is breaking up, because its foundations are cracking.

Lenin Collected Works,, Volume 27, page 403; Speech At The Second All-Russia Congress Of Commissars For Labour.

 

 

June 4, 1918

I am therefore led to recall how justified Engels, one of the great founders of scientific socialism, was, when in 1887, thirty years before the Russian revolution, he wrote that a European war would not only result, as he expressed it, in crowns falling from crowned heads by the dozen without anybody to pick them up, but that this war would also lead to the brutalisation, degradation and retrogression of the whole of Europe; and that, on the other hand, war would result either in the domination of the working class or in the creation of the conditions which would render its domination indispensable. On this occasion the co-founder of Marxism expressed himself with extreme caution, for he clearly saw that if history took this course, the result would be the collapse of capitalism and the extension of socialism, and that a more painful and severe transition period, greater want and a severer crisis, disruptive of all productive forces, could not be imagined. (422-423)

In all the imperialist countries the starvation of the masses offers a field for the most furious profiteering; incredible fortunes are being amassed on poverty and starvation. (426)

And when a revolution takes place, it does not happen as in the case of the death of an individual, when the deceased is simply removed. When the old society perishes, its corpse cannot be nailed up in a coffin an lowered into the grave. It disintegrates in our midst; the corpse rots and infects us.

No great revolution has ever proceeded otherwise; no great revolution can proceed otherwise.A socialist revolution can never be engendered in any other way; and not a single country can pass from capitalism to socialism except in an atmosphere of disintegrating capitalism and of painful struggle against it. And so we say that our first slogan is centralisation and our second slogan is the unity of the workers. Workers, unite and unite again! (434)

Lenin Collected Works,, Volume 27, page 422 - 434; Report On Combating The Famine.

 

 

June 27, 1918

 

Capitalist society, based on the private owner-ship of the land, the factories and tools by a handful of capitalists, of monopolists, will be transformed into social-ist society, which alone is capable of putting an end to war, because the “civilised”, “cultured” capitalist world is heading for unprecedented bankruptcy, which is capable of undermining and will inevitably undermine all the founda-tions of cultured life.

Capitalism has led to such a severe and painful disaster that it is now perfectly clear to all that the present war cannot end without a number of most severe and bloody revolutions, of which the Russian revolution was only the first, only the beginning. (460)

There is no other way out of this war except revolution, except civil war, except the transformation of the war between capitalists for profits, for the sharing of the loot, for the strangulation of small countries, into a war of the oppressed against the oppressors, a war which always accompanies not only great revolutions but every serious revolution in history, a war which is the only war that is legitimate and just, a holy war from the point of view of the interests of the working people, of the oppressed and of the exploited masses. (463)

The imperialists doom the working class to disaster, suffering and extinction. (463)

The whole difficulty of the Russian revolution is that it was much easier for the Russian revolutionary working class to start than it is for the West-European classes, but it is much more difficult for us to continue. It is more difficult to start a revolution in West-European countries because there the revolutionary proletariat is opposed by the higher thinking that comes with culture, and the working class is in a state of cultural slavery. We must explain that the disaster, that has befallen us is an international disaster and that there is no other way out of it except world revolution. Since we must pass through such a painful period in which we temporarily stand alone, we must exert all our efforts to bear the difficulties of this period staunchly, knowing that in the last analysis we are not alone, that the disaster which we are experiencing is creeping upon every European country, and that not one of these countries will be able to extricate itself except by a series of revolutions. (464)

Lenin, Collected Works, Volume 27, page 460 - 464, "Report On The Current Situation".

 

 

29 June, 1918

There can be no civil war—the inevitable condition and concomitant of socialist revolution—without disruption. To renounce revolution and socialism “in view of” the disruption, only means to display one’s lack of principle and in practice to desert to the bourgeoisie. (497)

Marx and Engels, the founders of scientific socialism, always said that the transition from capitalism to socialism would be inevitably accompanied by prolonged birth pangs. And analysing the consequences of a world war, Engels outlines simply and clearly the indisputable and obvious fact that a revolution that follows and is connected with a war (and still more—let us add for our part—a revolution which breaks out during a war, and which is obliged to grow and maintain itself in the midst of a world war) is a particularly severe case of childbirth. (498)

Severe travail greatly increases the danger of grave illnes or of a fatal issue. But while individuals may die in the act of childbirth, the new society to which the old system gives birth cannot die; all that may happen is that the birth may be more painful, more prolonged, and growth and development slower. (498 - 499)

Let the “socialist” snivelers croak, let the bourgeoisie rage and fume, but only people who shut their eyes so as not to see, and stuff their ears so as not to hear, can fail to notice that all over the world the birth pangs of the old, capitalist society, which is pregnant with socialism, have begun. Our country, which has temporarily been advanced by the march of events to the van of the socialist revolution, is undergoing the particularIy severe pains of the first period of travail. We have every reason to face the future with complete assurance and absolute confidence, for it is preparing for us new allies and new victories of the socialist revolution in a number of the more advanced countries. We are entitled to be proud and to consider ourselves fortunate that it has come to our lot to be the first to fell in one part of the globe that wild beast, capitalism, which has drenched the earth in blood, which has reduced humanity to starvation and demoralisation, and which will assuredly perish soon, no matter how monstrous and savage its frenzy in the face of death. (499)

Lenin, Collected Works, Volume 27, page 497 - 499, "Prophetic words".

 

 

9 August, 1918.

The Russian revolution has cast sparks into every country of the world, and has pushed the imperialists, who have gone too far, nearer to the edge of the precipice.

Comrades, we are in a very difficult position, but we must overcome every difficulty and hold fast the banner of socialist revolution we have raised aloft.

The workers of the world are looking hopefully towards us. We can hear their cry: “hold on a little longer! You are surrounded by enemies, but we shall come to your aid, and by our joint effort we shall finally hurl the imperialist vultures over the precipice.”

We hear this cry, and we swear we shall hold on, we shall stick to our post fighting with all our strength and not lay down our arms in face of the onslaught of world counter-revolution!

Lenin, Collected Works, Volume 28, page 52 -53, "Meeting in Sokolniki district".

 

 

20 August, 1918.

In spite of this, we are firmly convinced that we are invincible, because the spirit of mankind will not be broken by the imperialist slaughter. Mankind will vanquish it. And the first country to break the convict chains of the imperialist war was our country. We sustained enormously heavy casualties in the struggle to break these chains, but we broke them. We are free from imperialist dependence, we have raised the banner of struggle for the complete overthrow of imperialism for the whole world to see.

We are now, as it were, in a besieged fortress, waiting for the other detachments of the world socialist revolution to come to our relief. These detachments exist, they are more numerous than ours, they are maturing, growing, gaining more strength the longer the brutalities of imperialism continue. The workers are breaking away from their social traitors—the Gomperses, Hendersons, Renaudels, Scheidemanns and Renners. Slowly but surely the workers are adopting communist, Bolshevik tactics and are marching towards the proletarian revolution, which alone is capable of saving dying culture and dying mankind.

In short, we are invincible, because the world proletarian revolution is invincible.

Lenin, Collected Works, Volume 28, page 75, Letter to American workers.

 

 

28 August, 1918.

Comrades, we are passing through one of the most critical, important and interesting moments of history—a moment when the world socialist revolution is in the making.

The Russian revolution has shown that the war is inevitably leading to the disintegration of capitalist society in general, that it is being converted into a war of the working people against the exploiters. Therein lies the significance of the Russian revolution.

Lenin, Collected Works, Volume 28, page 84, Speech At The First All-Russia Congress On Education.

 

 

Early Spring, 1919

Can we count on the overthrow of world imperialism merely by force before the proletariat in those imperialist countries has reached the necessary stage of development?

If the question is presented in this way—and we as Marxists have always taught that this is the only way to present the question—we must agree that it would be very absurd and foolish to employ the policy of violence under those circumstances, and complete failure to understand the conditions under which a policy of violence can be successful.

It will be impossible to crawl out of this peace while the old capitalist system is intact, because the war has piled up such a heap of debts, such a mass of ruins throughout the capitalist world, that it is impossible to crawl out of it without upsetting the whole pile and starting an avalanche.

I was particularly astonished by the American’s appraisal of the situation from the point of view of a business man who, of course, has not studied the theory of the class struggle and sincerely thinks it is nonsense, but who is interested in millions and thousands of millions, and being able to count, asks: “Will they pay or not?” And he answers, again from the shrewd businessman’s point of view: “They have nothing to pay with! You will not even get 20 kopeks in the ruble!

And I think that it will be useful to recall this policy once again at the present time when a similar situation is arising in the Entente countries, when there, too, the bourgeoisie is filled with a mad desire to thrust their debts, poverty and ruin on Russia, to plunder Russia and crush her in order to divert the rising anger of the masses of their own working people from themselves.

If we look at the situation soberly we shall have to admit that the method of appraising affairs which proved so correct in appraising the Russian revolution is, day after day, indicating the coming of the world revolution. We know that the streams that will carry with them the icebergs of the Entente, of capitalism, of imperialism, are gaining strength day after day.

Lenin, Collected Works, Volume 29, page 55 - 88, full text:

Achievements and Difficulties of the Soviet Government

 

 

Spring 1919

The causes, significance and aims of this revolution can be correctly understood, first, by making clear the real nature, the fundamental character of capitalism and of bourgeois society, and the inevitability of their development towards communism; and secondly, by making clear the nature of imperialism and of imperialist wars, which have accelerated the collapse of capitalism and have placed the proletarian revolution on the order of the day.

This state of affairs in the bourgeois countries and the steadily growing competition among them in the world market make it more and more difficult for them to sell the goods which are produced in ever-increasing quantities. Over-production, manifesting itself in more or less acute industrial crises followed by more or less protracted periods of industrial stagnation, is an Inevitable consequence of the development of the productive forces in bourgeois society. Crises and periods of industrial stagnation, in their turn, still further ruin the small producers, still further increase the dependence of wage-labour on capital, and lead still more rapidly to the relative and sometimes to the absolute deterioration of the condition of the working class.

Thus, improvement in technology, signifying increased labour productivity and greater social wealth, becomes in bourgeois society the cause of greater social inequality, of widening gulfs between the rich and poor, of greater insecurity, unemployment, and various hardships of the mass of the working people.

However, in proportion as all these contradictions, which are inherent in bourgeois society, grow and develop, so also does the discontent of the toiling and exploited masses with the existing order of things grow; the numerical strength and solidarity of the proletarians increase and their struggle against their exploiters is sharpened. At the same time, by concentrating the means of production and exchange and socialising the process of labour in capitalist enterprises, the improvement in technology more and more rapidly creates the material possibility of capitalist production relations being superseded by communist relations, i.e., the possibility of bringing about the social revolution, which is the ultimate aim of all the activities of the international communist party as the conscious exponent of the class movement of the proletariat.

The extremely high level of development which world apitalism in general has attained, the replacement of free competition by monopoly capitalism, the fact that the banks and the capitalist associations have prepared the machinery for the social regulation of the process of production and distribution of products, the rise in the cost of living and increased oppression of the working class by the syndicates due to the growth of capitalist monopolies, the tremendous obstacles standing in the way of the proletariat’s economic and political struggle, the horrors, misery, ruin, and brutalisation caused by the imperialist war—all these factors transform the present stage of capitalist development into an era of proletarian socialist revolution. That era has dawned.

Only a proletarian socialist revolution can lead humanity out of the impasse which imperialism and imperialist wars have created. Whatever difficulties the revolution may have to encounter, whatever possible temporary setbacks or waves of counter-revolution it may have to contend with, the final victory of the proletariat is inevitable.

 

Lenin, Collected Works, Volume 29, pages 97 - 140, - Draft Programme of the R.C.P.(B.)

 

 

 

20 July,1919

The gigantic progress of technology in general, and of means of transport in particular, and the tremendous growth of capital and banks have resulted in capitalism becoming mature and over mature. It has outlived itself. It has become the most reactionary hindrance to human progress.

The collapse of capitalism is inevitable.

The capitalists, the bourgeoisie, can at “best” put off the victory of socialism in one country or another at the cost of slaughtering further hundreds of thousands of workers and peasants. But they cannot save capitalism.

Lenin, Collected Works, Volume 29, pages 515 - 519, - Answers To An American Journalist’s Questions.

 

 

 

December 5, 1919

There are two forces on earth that can decide the destiny of mankind. One force is international capitalism, and should it be victorious it will display this force in countless atrocities as may be seen from the history of every small nation’s development. The other force is the international proletariat that is fighting for the socialist revolution through the dictatorship of the proletariat, which it calls workers’ democracy.

Our definition of the historical forces involved was correct, namely, that either brute capital would be victorious, and then, even if it were in the most democratic republic, it would crush all the small nations of the world—or the dictatorship of the proletariat would be victorious, which is the sole hope of all working people and of the small, downtrodden and weak nations. It turned out that we were right not only in theory, but also in practical world politics.

Lenin, Collected Works, Volume 30, page 215, - Seventh All-Russia Congress Of Soviets.

 

 

 

16 March, 1920

And that factor is precisely the steadfastness and firmness of the proletariat of our country, which declares, and has proved by its deeds, that we are prepared to perish to a man rather than yield our territory, rather than yield our principle, the principle of discipline and firm policy, for the sake of which everything else must be sacrificed. At the time when the capitalist countries and the capitalist class are disintegrating, at this moment of crisis and despair, this political factor is the only decisive one.

It is the class-consciousness and firmness of the working class that count here. If the working class is prepared to make sacrifices, if it shows that it is able to strain every nerve, the problem will be solved. Everything must be directed to the solution of this problem. The determination of the working class, its inflexible adherence to the watchword “Death rather than surrender!” is not only a historical factor, it is the decisive, the winning factor.

Lenin, Collected Works, Volume 30, page 454, - Ninth Congress of the R.C.P.(B.).

 

 

April - May 1920

That is because, in the era of imperialism in general and especially today after a war that was a sore trial to the peoples and has quickly opened their eyes to the truth (i.e., the fact that tens of millions were killed and maimed for the sole purpose of deciding whether the British or the German robbers should plunder the largest number of countries), all these spheres of social life and heavily charged with inflammable material and are creating numerous causes of conflicts, crises and an intensification of the class struggle. We do not and cannot know which spark—of the innumerable sparks that are flying about in all countries as a result of the world economic and political crisis—will kindle the conflagration, in the sense of raising up the masses; we must, therefore, with our new and communist principles, set to work to stir up all and sundry, even the oldest, mustiest and seemingly hopeless spheres, for otherwise we shall not be able to cope with our tasks, shall not be comprehensively prepared, shall not be in possession of all the weapons and shall not prepare ourselves either to gain victory over the bourgeoisie (which arranged all aspects of social life—and has now disarranged them—in its bourgeois fashion), or to bring about the impending communist reorganisation of every sphere of life, following that victory.

Since the proletarian revolution in Russia and its victories on an international scale, expected neither by the bourgeoisie nor the philistines, the entire world has become different, and the bourgeoisie everywhere has become different too.

Lenin, Collected Works, Volume 31, page 99 - 100, Left-Wing Communism: an Infantile Disorder.

 

 

July 19-August 7, 1920

As a result of this war, all capitalist contradictions have become immeasurably more acute. (217)

And, comrades, it is naturaI that, with the population of the world divided in this way, exploitation by finance capital, the capitalist monopolies, has increased many times over.

Not only have the colonial and the defeated countries been reduced to a state of dependence; within each victor state the contradictions have grown more acute; all the capitalist contradictions have become aggravated.

Let us take the national debts. We know that the debts of the principal European states increased no less than sevenfold in the period between 1914 and 1920. (218)

America alone is absolutely independent financially. Before the war she was a debtor; she is now a creditor only. All the other powers in the world are debtors. (219)

in the victor countries, Britain and Francc, the ratio of debts to aggregate national wealth is over 50 per cent; in Italy the percentage is between 60 and 70, and in Russia 90. As you know, however, these debts do not disturb us, because we followed Keynes’s excellent advice just a little before his book appeared—we annulled all our debts. (Stormy applause.) (220)

On March 8 of this year, the Supreme Economic Council, an institution charged with protecting the bourgeois system throughout the world from the mounting revolution, adopted a resolution which ended with an appeal for order, industry and thrift, provided, of course, the workers remain the slaves of capital.

In such circumstances, the workers’ mounting resentment, the growth of a revolutionary temper and ideas, and the increase in spontaneous mass strikes are obviously inevitable, since the position of the workers is becoming intolerable. The workers’ own experience is convincing them that the capitalists have become prodigiously enriched by the war and are placing the burden of war costs and debts upon the workers’ shoulders. (221)

It is only in Russia that the exploiters’ private property has been abolished. The capitalists can do nothing about the gap between prices and wages, and the workers cannot live on their previous wages. The old methods are useless against this calamity. Nothing can be achieved by isolated strikes, the parliamentary struggle, or the vote, because “private property is sacred”, and the capitalists have accumulated such debts that the whole world is in bondage to a handful of men. Meanwhile the workers’ living conditions are becoming more and more unbearable. There is no other way out but to abolish the exploiters’ “private property”. (221-222)

Bank profits are at least 40-50 per cent. It should, moreover, be noted that, in determining bank profits, all bank officials are able to conceal the lion’s share of profits by calling them, not profits but bonuses, commissions, etc. So here, too, indisputable economic facts prove that the wealth of a tiny handful of people has grown prodigiously and that their luxury beggars description, while the poverty of the working class is steadily growing. We must particularly note the further circumstance brought out very clearly by Comrade Levi in the report I have just referred to, namely, the change in the value of money. Money has everywhere depreciated as a result of the debts, the issue of paper currency, etc. (222)

This fact shows that the “mechanism” of the world capitalist economy is falling apart. The trade relations on which the acquisition of raw materials and the sale of commodities hinge under capitalism cannot go on; they cannot continue to be based on the subordination of a number of countries to a single country—the reason being the change in the value of money. No wealthy country can exist or trade unless it sells its goods and obtains raw materials.

Thus we have a situation in which America, a wealthy country that all countries are subordinate to, cannot buy or sell. (222-223)

In consequence of all this, two conditions, two fundamental situations, have inevitably and naturally emerged. On the one hand, the impoverishment of the masses has grown incredibly, primarily among 1,250 million people, i.e., 70 per cent of the world’s population. These are the colonial and dependent countries whose inhabitants possess no legal rights, countries “mandated” to the brigands of finance. Besides, the enslavement of the defeated countries has been sanctioned by the Treaty of Versailles and by existing secret treaties regarding Russia, whose validity, it is true, is sometimes about as real as that of the scraps of paper stating that we owe so many thousands of millions. For the first time in world history, we see robbery, slavery, dependence, poverty and starvation imposed upon 1,250 million people by a legal act.

On the other hand, the workers in each of the creditor countries have found themselves in conditions that are intolerable. The war has led to an unprecedented aggravation of all capitalist contradictions, this being the origin of the intense revolutionary ferment that is ever growing. (224)

If, on the one hand, the economic position of the masses has become intolerable, and, on the other hand, the disintegration described by Keynes has set in and is growing among the negligible minority of all-powerful victor countries, then we are in the presence of the maturing of the two conditions for the world revolution. (225)

We saw this in the case of the wars against Russia. Weak, ruined and crushed, Russia, a most backward country, fought against all the nations, against a league of the rich and powerful states that dominate the world, and emerged victorious. We could not put up a force that was anything like the equal of theirs, and yet we proved the victors. Why was that? Because there was not a jot of unity among them, because each power worked against the other. France wanted Russia to pay her debts and become a formidable force against Germany; Britain wanted to partition Russia, and attempted to seize the Baku oilfields and conclude a treaty with the border states of Russia. Among the official British documents there is a Paper which scrupulously enumerates all the states (fourteen in all) which some six months ago, in December 1919, pledged themselves to take Moscow and Petrograd. Britain based her policy on these states, to whom she granted loans running into millions. All these calculations have now misfired, and all the loans are unrecoverable.

Such is the situation created by the League of Nations. Every day of this Covenant’s existence provides the best propaganda for Bolshevism, since the most powerful adherents of the capitalist “order” are revealing that, on every question, they put spokes in one another’s wheels. Furious wrangling over the partitioning of Turkey, Persia, Mesopotamia and China is going on between Japan, Britain, America and France. The bourgeois press in these countries is full of the bitterest attacks and the angriest statements against their “colleagues” for trying to snatch the booty from under their noses. We see complete discord at the top, among this handful, this very small number of extremely rich countries. There are 1,250 million people who find it impossible to live in the conditions of servitude which “advanced” and civilised capitalism wishes to impose on them: after all, these represent 70 per cent of the world’s population. This handful of the richest states—Britain, America and Japan (though Japan was able to plunder the Eastern, the Asian countries, she cannot constitute an independent financial and military force without support from another country)—these two or three countries are unable to organise economic relations, and are directing their policies toward disrupting policies of their colleagues and partners in the League of Nations. Hence the world crisis; it is these economic roots of the crisis that provide the chief reason of the brilliant successes the Communist International is achieving.

Comrades, we have now come to the question of the revolutionary crisis as the basis of our revolutionary action. And here we must first of all note two widespread errors. On the one hand, bourgeois economists depict this crisis simply as “unrest”, to use the elegant expression of the British. On the other hand, revolutionaries sometimes try to prove that the crisis is absolutely insoluble.

This is a mistake. There is no such thing as an absolutely hopeless situation. The bourgeoisie are behaving like barefaced plunderers who have lost their heads; they are committing folly after folly, thus aggravating the situation and hastening their doom. All that is true. But nobody can “prove” that it is absolutely impossible for them to pacify a minority of the exploited with some petty concessions, and suppress some movement or uprising of some section of the oppressed and exploited. To try to “prove” in advance that there is “absolutely” no way out of the situation would be sheer pedantry, or playing with concepts and catchwords. Practice alone can serve as real “proof” in this and similar questions. All over the world, the bourgeois system is experiencing a tremendous revolutionary crisis. The revolutionary parties must now “prove” in practice that they have sufficient understanding and organisation, contact with the exploited masses, and determination and skill to utilise this crisis for a successful, a victorious revolution.

It is mainly to prepare this “proof” that we have gathered at this Congress of the Communist International. (227)

Lenin, Collected Works, Volume 31, pages 217 - 227, II. Congress of the Communist International.

 

 

July 6, 1920

Thus, out of the universal ruin caused by the war a world-wide revolutionary crisis is arising which, however prolonged and arduous its stages may be, cannot end otherwise than in a proletarian revolution and in its victory.

...

The growing world proletarian revolutionary movement in general, and the communist movement in particular, cannot dispense with an analysis and exposure of the theoretical errors of Kautskyism. The more so since pacifism and “democracy” in general, which lay no claim to Marxism whatever, but which, like Kautsky and Co., are obscuring the profundity of the contradictions of imperialism and the inevitable revolutionary crisis to which it gives rise, are still very widespread all over the world. To combat these tendencies is the bounden duty of the party of the proletariat

Lenin, Collected Works, Volume 22, page 191 and 192-193, "Imperialism the highest stage of capitalism".

 

 

(before) July 19, 1920

Theses should also be written for the Second Congress of the Third International on the international economic and political situation.

Could not Lapinsky, who has more time, or someone else, whom they would advise, be given the job of making a preliminary draft of these theses, approximately on the following lines [1]:


(1) The division of the whole world (both in the sense of the spheres of influence of banking and finance capital, and in the sense of international syndicates and cartels, and equally in the sense of the seizure of colonies and semi-colonies) is the basic fact of imperialism, of the economy of the twentieth century.

(2) Hence imperialist wars are inevitable in general, and particularly the first imperialist war of 1914–18.

(3) Results of this war:

(a) reduction in the number of states that are world powers, increase in the number of weak, dependent states which are being plundered and divided;

(b) the tremendous sharpening of all capitalist contradictions, both within all the capitalist countries and among the countries themselves;

(c) in particular, the sharpening, on a world scale, of both poles of capitalism:

increase of luxury among a tiny number of capitalist magnates;

increase of need, poverty, ruin, famine, unemployment, extreme insecurity of existence;

(d) intensification of militarism, more intense and accelerated preparation for new imperialist wars, economically inevitable; a growth in the number of wars throughout the world, particularly of revolutionary wars;

(e) complete bankruptcy of the League of Nations, exposure of its falseness; the collapse of “Wilsonism”. The bankruptcy of bourgeois democracy.

(4) Explanation, in the briefest way, by characterising (cf. the report by P. Levi, April 14, 1920 ):

Britain and America

France

Japan

the other, neutral countries of Europe and America

the defeated countries (principally Russia and Germany)

the colonies^

the semi-colonies (Persia, Turkey, China).

(5) Raw material—its exhaustion

industry—its weakening (fuel, etc.)

currencies—their collapse. Debts. Devaluation.

“Dislocation”, break-up of the whole system of world economy.

(6) The result == a world revolutionary crisis. The communist movement and Soviet power.

Note

[1] The plan of theses expounded in this letter formed the basis of Lenin’s report, on the international situation and the fundamental tasks of the Communist International which he made at the Second Congress of the Comintern, held in Moscow from July 19 to August 7, 1920 (see present edition. Vol. 31, pp. 215–34).

Lenin, Collected Works, Volume 35, pages 450 - 451, Letter (248) To:   THE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE OF THE COMMUNIST INTERNATIONAL

 

 

November 6, 1920

Three such mighty powers as Britain, France and America could not unite against us, and were defeated in a war they had begun against us with their joint forces. Why has that been? It has been because their economies and life in their countries have been undermined, because they are moribund, because they cannot go on living in the old way, and because the class at whose will they exist-the bourgeois class-has gone rotten. That class drove over 10 million people into the imperialist war and to destruction. For what purpose? For the purpose of partitioning the world among a handful of capitalists. In doing so, however, it has come to the end of its strength, and has undermined the foundations of its own existence; however strong it may seem militarily, it is internally impotent. This is no longer a proclamation in the Bolshevik spirit, but a fact that has been proved with fire and sword. However rich and strong that class may be, it is doomed, whereas we are a class that is advancing towards victory. Even though we are weaker than our enemies, we have been winning for three years, and we have the right to say, without the least boasting, that we have won.

Lenin, Collected Works, Volume 31, page 398, Speech At A Joint Plenum Of The Moscow Soviet Of Workers’, Peasants’ And Red Army Deputies,

 

 

December 6, 1920

From the political point of view, the fundamental thing in the question of concessions—and here there are both political and economic considerations—is a rule we have not only assimilated in theory, but have also applied in practice, a rule which will remain fundamental with us for a long time until socialism finally triumphs all over the world: we must take advantage of the antagonisms and the contradictions that exist between the two imperialisms, the two groups of capitalist states, and play them off against each other. Until we have conquered the whole world, and as long as we are economically and militarily weaker than the capitalist world, we must stick to the rule that we must be able to take advantage of the antagonisms and contradictions existing among the imperialists. Had we not adhered to this rule, every one of us would have long ago been strung up by the neck, to the glee of the capitalists. We gained our chief experience in this respect when we concluded the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. It should not be inferred that all treaties must be like that of Brest-Litovsk, or the Treaty of Versailles. That is not true. There may be a third kind of treaty, one that is advantageous to its.

In the concessions decree we come forward, on behalf of all humanity, with an economically irreproachable programme for the restoration of the world’s economic forces by utilising all raw materials, wherever they are to be found. What we consider important is that there should be no starvation anywhere. You capitalists cannot eliminate it; we can. We are speaking for seventy per cent of the population of the earth. This is sure to exert an influence. Whatever comes of the project, no exception can be taken to it from the angle of economics. The economic aspect of concessions is important, regardless of whether they are signed or not.

Lenin, Collected Works, Volume 31, pages 438 - 459, Speech Delivered at a Meeting of Activists Of The Moscow Organisation of the R.C.P.(B.)

 

 

 

December 22 - 29, 1920

We propose to all peoples, including the peoples of the capitalist countries, to make the rehabilitation of the economy and the salvation of all peoples from hunger their main object.” If the capitalists do not understand this, it is an argument demonstrating the corruption, madness and criminal nature of the capitalist system. That will be of more than mere propaganda value: it will be a communist call for revolution, for it shows beyond doubt that capitalism is falling apart and cannot satisfy the people’s needs, a fact that is more and more penetrating into the consciousness of all peoples. An insignificant minority of imperialist countries are growing rich, while a large number of other countries are actually on the verge of ruin. The world economy needs reorganisation, and the Soviet Republic comes forward with a plan of reconstruction, with the following incontestable business-like, and realisable proposal: “You are starving under capitalism, despite the fabulous wealth of machinery. We can solve the crisis by bringing together your machinery and our raw materials, but the capitalists are in the way. We have proposed to them that they should accept our offer, but they are holding back and wrecking our plan.”

Lenin, Collected Works, Volume 31, pages 482 - 483, The 8th All Russia Congress of Soviets.

 

 

June 22, 1921

This state of affairs has given rise to the following international alignment of class forces.

The international bourgeoisie, deprived of the opportunity of waging open war against Soviet Russia, is waiting and watching for the moment when circumstances will permit it to resume the war.

The proletariat in all the advanced capitalist countries has already formed its vanguard, the Communist Parties, which are growing, making steady progress towards winning the majority of the proletariat in each country, and destroying the influence of the old trade union bureaucrats and of the upper stratum of the working class of America and Europe, which has been corrupted by imperialist privileges.

The petty-bourgeois democrats in the capitalist countries, whose foremost sections are represented by the Second and Two-and-a-Half Internationals, serve today as the mainstay of capitalism, since they retain an influence over the majority, or a considerable section, of the industrial and commercial workers and office employees who are afraid that if revolution breaks out they will lose the relative petty-bourgeois prosperity created by the privileges of imperialism. But the growing economic crisis is worsening the condition of broad sections of the people everywhere, and this, with the looming inevitability of new imperialist wars if capitalism is preserved, is steadily weakening this mainstay.

The masses of the working people in the colonial and semi colonial countries, who constitute the overwhelming majority of the population of the globe, were roused to political life at the turn of the twentieth century, particularly by the revolutions in Russia, Turkey, Persia and China. The imperialist war of 1914-18 and the Soviet power in Russia are completing the process of converting these masses into an active factor in world politics and in the revolutionary destruction of imperialism, although the educated philistines of Europe and America, including the leaders of the Second and Two-and-a-Half Internationals, stubbornly refuse to see this. British India is at the head of these countries, and there revolution is maturing in proportion, on the one hand, to the growth of the industrial and railway proletariat, and, on the other, to the increase in the brutal terrorism of the British, who with ever greater frequency resort to massacres (Amritsar),public floggings, etc.

Lenin, Collected Works, Volume 32, page 454 - 455, III. Congress of the Comintern.

 

 

December 25 - 27, 1921

And the farther we get from the war the clearer it becomes, not only to the working people, but to an extremely large extent also to the bourgeoisie of the victor countries, that capitalism is disintegrating, that the world economic crisis has created an intolerable situation from which there is no escape, despite all the victories. That is why, while being immeasurably weaker economically, politically and militarily than all the other powers, we are at the same time stronger, because we are aware of and correctly assess all that emerges and must emerge from this imperialist confusion, from this bloody tangle and from those contradictions (to take only the currency contradictions, I will not mention the others) in which they have become entangled and are becoming entangled still more deeply and from which they see no way out.

Lenin, Collected Works, Volume 33, page 146, 9th All Russia Congress of Soviets.

 

 

2 May 1922

The basic reason for this tremendous acceleration of world development is that new hundreds of millions of people have been drawn into it. The old bourgeois and imperialist Europe, which was accustomed to look upon itself as the centre of the universe, rotted and burst like a putrid ulcer in the first imperialist holocaust. No matter bow the Spenglers and all the enlightened philistines, who are capable of admiring (or even studying) Spengler, may lament it, this decline of the old Europe is but an episode in the history of the downfall of the world bourgeoisie, oversatiated by imperialist rapine and the oppression of the majority of the world’s population.

That majority has now awakened and has begun a movement which even the “mightiest” powers cannot stem. They stand no chance.

Lenin, Collected Works, Volume 33, page 349 - 350, On the 10th anniversary of Pravda.

 

 

 

March 2, 1923

The West-European capitalist powers, partly deliberately and partly unconsciously, did everything they could to throw us back, to utilise the elements of the Civil War in Russia in order to spread as much ruin in the country as possible. It was precisely this way out of the imperialist war that seemed to have many advantages. They argued somewhat as follows: "If we fail to overthrow the revolutionary system in Russia, we shall, at all events, hinder its progress towards socialism." And from their point of view they could argue in no other way. In the end, their problem was half-solved. They failed to overthrow the new system created by the revolution, but they did prevent it from at once taking the step forward that would have justified the forecasts of the socialists, that would have enabled the latter to develop the productive forces with enormous speed, to develop all the potentialities which, taken together, would have produced socialism; socialists would thus have proved to all and sundry that socialism contains within itself gigantic forces and that mankind had now entered in to a new stage of development of extraordinarily brilliant prospects.

The system of international relationships which has now taken shape is one in which a European state, Germany, is enslaved by the victor countries. Furthermore, owing to their victory, a number of states, the oldest states in the West, are in a position to make some insignificant concessions to their oppressed classes- concessions which, insignificant though they are, nevertheless heard the revolutionary movement in those countries and create some semblance of "class truce."

At the same time, as a result of the last imperialist war, a number of countries of the East, India, China, etc, have been completely jolted out of the rut. Their development has definitely shifted to general European capitalist lines. The general European ferment has begun to affect them, and it is now clear to the whole world that they have been drawn into a process of development that must lead to a crisis in the whole of world capitalism.

Thus, at the present time we are confronted with the question- shall we be able to hold on with our small and very small peasant production, and in our present state of ruin, until the West-European capitalist countries consummate their development towards socialism? But they are consummating it not as we formerly expected. They are not consummating it through the gradual "maturing" of socialism, but through the exploitation of some countries by others, through the exploitation of the first of the countries vanquished in the imperialist war combined with the exploitation of the whole of the East. On the other hand, precisely as a result of the first imperialist war, the East has been definitely drawn into the revolutionary movement, has been definitely drawn into the general maelstrom of the world revolutionary movement.

What tactics does this situation prescribe for our country? Obviously the following. We must display extreme caution so as to preserve our workers’ government and to retain our small and very small peasantry under its leadership and authority. We have the advantage that the whole world is now passing to a movement that must give rise to a world socialist revolution. But we are labouring under the disadvantage that the imperialists have succeeded in splitting the world into two camps; and this split is made more complicated by the fact that it is extremely difficult for Germany, which is really a land of advanced, cultured, capitalist development, to rise to her feet. All the capitalist powers of what is called the West are pecking at her and preventing her from rising. On the other hand, the entire East, with its hundred of millions of exploited working people, reduced to the last degree of human suffering, has been forced into a position where its physical and material strength cannot possibly be compared with the physical, material and military strength of any of the much smaller West-European states.

Lenin, Collected Works, Volume 33, pages 498 - 500, "Better fewer, but better".

 

 

 

Lenin

on the capitalist crisis