The congress welcomed the setting up of the Third, Communist International.

The Eighth Congress was an outstanding event not only in the life of the Party and the Soviet state but also for the whole international revolutionary movement.




The Eighth Congress of the C.P.S.U.(B.)


Stalin at the 8th party congress


(Excerpt from: Stalin - "History of the CPSU (B) - Short Course)

VIII Party Congress


The Eighth Congress of our Party met in March 1919. It assembled in the midst of a conflict of contradictory factors -- on the one hand, the reactionary bloc of the Entente countries against the Soviet Government had grown stronger, and, on the other, the rising tide of revolution in Europe, especially in the defeated countries, had considerably improved the position of the Soviet country.

    The congress was attended by 301 delegates with vote, representing 313,766 members of the Party, and 102 delegates with voice but no vote.

    In his inaugural speech, Lenin paid homage to the memory of Y. M. Sverdlov, one of the finest organizing talents in the Bolshevik Party, who had died on the eve of the congress.

    The congress adopted a new Party Program. This program gives a description of capitalism and of its highest phase -- imperialism. It compares two systems of state -- the bourgeois-democratic system and the Soviet system. It details the specific tasks of the Party in the struggle for Socialism: completion of the expropriation of the bourgeoisie; administration of the economic life of the country in accordance with a single Socialist plan; participation of the trade unions in the organization of the national economy; Socialist labour discipline; utilization of bourgeois experts in the economic field under the control of Soviet bodies; gradual and systematic enlistment of the middle peasantry in the work of Socialist construction.

    The congress adopted Lenin's proposal to include in the program in addition to a definition of imperialism as the highest stage of capitalism, the description of industrial capitalism and simple commodity production contained in the old program adopted at the Second Party Congress. Lenin considered it essential that the program should take account of the complexity of our economic system and note the existence of diverse economic formations in the country, including small commodity production, as represented by the middle peasants. Therefore, during the debate on the program, Lenin vigorously condemned the anti-Bolshevik views of Bukharin, who proposed that the clauses dealing with capitalism, small commodity production, the economy of the middle peasant, be left out of the program. Bukharin's views represented a Menshevik-Trotskyite denial of the role played by the middle peasant in the development of the Soviet state. Furthermore, Bukharin glossed over the fact that the small commodity production of the peasants bred and nourished kulak elements.

    Lenin further refuted the anti-Bolshevik views of Bukharin and Pyatakov on the national question. They spoke against the inclusion in the program of a clause on the right of nations to self-determination; they were against the equality of nations, claiming that it was a slogan that would hinder the, victory of the proletarian revolution and the union of the proletarians of different nationalities. Lenin overthrew these utterly pernicious, imperialist, chauvinist views of Bukharin and Pyatakov.

    An important place in the deliberations of the Eighth Congress was devoted to policy towards the middle peasants. The Decree on the Land had resulted in a steady growth in the number of middle peasants, who now comprised the majority of the peasant population. The attitude and conduct of the middle peasantry, which vacillated between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, was of momentous importance for the fate of the Civil War and Socialist construction. The outcome of the Civil War largely depended on which way the middle peasant would swing, which class would win his allegiance -- the proletariat or the bourgeoisie. The Czechoslovaks, the Whiteguards, the kulaks, the Socialist-Revolutionaries and the Mensheviks were able to overthrow the Soviet power in the Volga region in the summer of 1918 because they were supported by a large section of the middle peasantry. The same was true during the revolts raised by the kulaks in Central Russia. But in the autumn of 1918 the mass of the middle peasants began to swing over to the Soviet power. The peasants saw that victories of the Whites were followed by the restoration of the power of the landlords, the seizure of peasants' land, and the robbery, flogging and torture of peasants. The activities of the Committees of the Poor Peasants, which crushed the kulaks, also contributed to the change in the attitude of the peasantry. Accordingly, in November 1918, Lenin issued the slogan:

    "Learn to come to an agreement with the middle peasant, while not for a moment renouncing the struggle against the kulak and at the same time firmly relying solely on the poor peasant." (Lenin, Selected Works, Vol. VIII, p. 150.)

    Of course, the middle peasants did not cease to vacillate entirely, but they drew closer to the Soviet Government and began to support it more solidly. This to a large extent was facilitated by the policy towards the middle peasants laid down by the Eighth Party Congress.

    The Eighth Congress marked a turning point in the policy of the Party towards the middle peasants. Lenin's report and the decisions of the congress laid down a new line of the Party on this question. The congress demanded that the Party organizations and all Communists should draw a strict distinction and division between the middle peasant and the kulak, and should strive to win the former over to the side of the working class by paying close attention to his needs. The backwardness of the middle peasants had to be overcome by persuasion and not by compulsion and coercion. The congress therefore gave instructions that no compulsion be used in the carrying out of Socialist measures in the countryside (formation of communes and agricultural artels). In all cases affecting the vital interests of the middle peasant, a practical agreement should be reached with him and concessions made with regard to the methods of realizing Socialist changes. The congress laid down the policy of a stable alliance with the middle peasant, the leading role in this alliance to be maintained by the proletariat.

    The new policy towards the middle peasant proclaimed by Lenin at the Eighth Congress required that the proletariat should rely on the poor peasant, maintain a stable alliance with the middle peasant and fight the kulak. The policy of the Party before the Eighth Congress was in general one of neutralizing the middle peasant. This meant that the Party strove to prevent the middle peasant from siding with the kulak and with the bourgeoisie in general. But now this was not enough. The Eighth Congress passed from a policy of neutralization of the middle peasant to a policy of stable alliance with him for the purpose of the struggle against the Whiteguards and foreign intervention and for the successful building of Socialism.

    The policy adopted by the congress towards the middle peasants, who formed the bulk of the peasantry, played a decisive part in ensuring success in the Civil War against foreign intervention and its Whiteguard henchmen. In the autumn of 1919, when the peasants had to choose between the Soviet power and Denikin, they supported the Soviets, and the proletarian dictatorship was able to vanquish its most dangerous enemy.

    The problems connected with the building up of the Red Army held a special place in the deliberations of the congress, where the so-called "Military Opposition" appeared in the field. This "Military Opposition" comprised quite a number of former members of the now shattered group of "Left Communists"; but it also included some Party workers who had never participated in any opposition, but were dissatisfied with the way Trotsky was conducting the affairs of the army. The majority of the delegates from the army were distinctly hostile to Trotsky; they resented his veneration for the military experts of the old tsarist army, some of whom were betraying us outright in the Civil War, and his arrogant and hostile attitude towards the old Bolshevik cadres in the army. Instances of Trotsky's "practices" were cited at the congress. For example, he had attempted to shoot a number of prominent army Communists serving at the front, just because they had incurred his displeasure. This was directly playing into the hands of the enemy. It was only the intervention of the Central Committee and the protests of military men that saved the lives of these comrades.

    But while fighting Trotsky's distortions of the military policy of the Party, the "Military Opposition" held incorrect views on a number of points concerning the building up of the army. Lenin and Stalin vigorously came out against the "Military Opposition," because the latter defended the survivals of the guerrilla spirit and resisted the creation of a regular Red Army, the utilization of the military experts of the old army and the establishment of that iron discipline without which no army can be a real army. Comrade Stalin rebutted the "Military Opposition" and demanded the creation of a regular army inspired with the spirit of strictest discipline.

    He said:

    "Either we create a real worker and peasant -- primarily a peasant -- army, strictly disciplined army, and defend the Republic, or we perish."

    While rejecting a number of proposals made by the "Military Opposition," the congress dealt a blow at Trotsky by demanding an improvement in the work of the central military institutions and the enhancement of the role of the Communists in the army.

    A Military Commission was set up at the congress; thanks to its efforts the decision on the military question was adopted by the congress unanimously.

    The effect of this decision was to strengthen the Red Army and to bring it still closer to the Party.

    The congress further discussed Party and Soviet affairs and the guiding role of the Party in the Soviets. During the debate on the latter question the congress repudiated the view of the opportunist Sapronov-Ossinsky group which held that the Party should not guide the work of the Soviets.

    Lastly, in view of the huge influx of new members into the Party, the congress outlined measures to improve the social composition of the Party and decided to conduct a re-registration of its members.

    This initiated the first purge of the Party ranks.


Lenin at the 8th Party Congress






Eighth Congress of the R.C.P.(B.)

March 18-23, 1919


Lenin on the death of comrade Sverdlov

"The III. International was founded in Moscow at a short congress. When we could do so much in a short time at the Moscow Congress of the Communists, it is because the Central Committee of our Party and the organizer of the Congress, comrade Sverdlov, has done a tremendous preparatory work." (Lenin)


our first words at this Congress must be dedicated to Comrade Yakov Mikhuilovich Sverdlov. Comrades, as many people said at his funeral today, Yakov Mikhailovich Sverdlov was, for the Party as a whole and for the entire Soviet Republic, the principal organiser, but he was much more valuable for our Party Congress and much closer to it. We have lost a comrade who devoted his last days entirely to this Congress. His absence will affect the whole course of our proceedings, and this Congress will feel it with exceptional acuteness. Comrades, I propose that we honour his memory by rising. (All rise.)



you are all, of course, aware that the founding of the Third, Communist International in Moscow is an event of the greatest significance insofar as our position in the world is concerned. We still have confronting us a vast, real and well armed military force—all the strongest powers of the world. Nevertheless, we can confidently say to ourselves that what outwardly seems to be a gigantic force, and which physically is immeasurably stronger than we are, has been shaken. It is no longer a force. It no longer has its former stability. Therefore there is nothing utopian in our aim and in the task we set ourselves—to be victorious in the struggle against this giant. On the contrary, although we are now artificially cut off from the whole world, the newspapers every day report the growth of the revolutionary movement in all countries. Moreover, we know, we see, that this growing movement is assuming the Soviet form. And this is a guarantee that in establishing the Soviet government we discovered the international, world form of the dictatorship of the proletariat. We are firmly convinced that the proletariat all over the world has taken this path of struggle, the creation of these forms of proletarian rule, the rule of the workers and of the working people in general, and that no power on earth can halt the progress of the world communist revolution towards the world Soviet republic." (Prolonged applause.)


Program of 1919

decided by the VIII. Congress


"Our program is the social revolution on a world scale."

"We are obliged to proceed from the generally accepted Marxist principle that a program must be built on a scientific foundation. It must explain to the masses how the communist revolution came into being, why it is inevitable, what its meaning, its essence, its power consists in, what it has to solve."

"We have to tell the proletarians and the poor peasants and prove that the communist revolution is inevitable."

"We must scientifically demonstrate how the path of this communist revolution will proceed."

"Maybe we will have a general program when the Soviet World-Republic is created, but until then we will certainly be writing some programs."

"To be international, our program must take into account the class moments that are economically characteristic of all countries, and it is characteristic of all countries that capitalism is developing in many areas."

"It all boils down to capitalism turning into imperialism, but imperialism leads to the beginning of the socialist revolution. This is boring and long, and not a single capitalist country has gone through this process to the end.
However, the program has to contain this process."






Protocol of the VIII Party Congress

in Russian language

Восьмой съезд РКП(б)