The Bolsheviks


The development of exchange has created such close ties among an the peoples of the civilised world that the great proletarian movement toward emancipation was bound to become - and has long since become - international.

Considering itself one of the detachments of the universal army of the proletariat, Russian social democracy is pursuing the same ultimate goal, as that for which the social democrats in other countries are striving. This ultimate goal is determined by the nature of contemporary bourgeois society and by the course of its development. The main characteristic of such a society is production for the market on the basis of capitalist production relations, whereby the largest and most important part of the means of production and exchange of commodities belongs to a numerically small class of people, while the overwhelming majority of the population consists of proletarians and semi-proletarians who, by their economic conditions, are forced either continuously or periodically to sell their labour power; that is, to hire themselves out to the capitalists, and by their toil to create the incomes of the upper classes of society. The expansion of the capitalist system of production runs parallel to technical progress, which, by increasing the economic importance of large enterprises, tends to eliminate the small independent producers, to convert some of them into proletarians, to reduce the socio-economic role of others and, in some localities, to place them in more or less complete, more or less open, more or less onerous dependence on capital.

Moreover, the same technical progress enables the entrepreneurs to utilise to an ever greater extent woman and child labour in the process of production and exchange of commodities. And since, on the other hand, technical improvements lead to a decrease in the entrepreneur's demand for human labour power, the demand for labour power necessarily lags behind the supply, and there is in consequence greater dependence of hired labour upon capital, and increased exploitation of the former by the latter.

Such a state of affairs in the bourgeois countries, as well as the ever growing competition among those countries on the world market, render the sale of goods which are produced in greater and greater quantities ever more difficult. overproduction, which manifests itself in more or less acute industrial crises - which in turn are followed by more or less protracted periods of industrial stagnation - is the inevitable consequence of the development of the productive forces in bourgeois society. Crises and periods of industrial stagnation, in their turn, tend to impoverish still further the small producers, to increase still further the dependence of hired labour upon capital and to accelerate still further the relative, and sometimes the absolute, deterioration of the condition of the working class.

Thus, technical progress, signifying increased productivity of labour and the growth of social wealth, becomes in bourgeois society the cause of increased social inequalities, of wider gulfs between the wealthy and the poor, of greater insecurity of existence, of unemployment, and of numerous privations for ever larger and larger masses of toilers. But together with the growth and development of all these contradictions inherent in bourgeois society, there grows simultaneously dissatisfaction with the present order among the toiling and exploited masses; the number and solidarity of the proletarians increases, and their struggle against the exploiters sharpens. At the same time, technical progress, by concentrating the means of production and exchange, by socialising the process of labour in capitalist enterprises , creates more and more rapidly the material possibility for replacing capitalist production relations by socialist ones; that is, the possibility for social revolution, which is the ultimate aim of all the activities of international social democracy as the class-conscious expression of the proletarian movement.

By replacing private with public ownership of the means of production and exchange, by introducing planned organisation in the public process of production so that the well being and the many sided development of all members of society may be ensured, the social revolution of the proletariat will abolish the division of society into classes and thus emancipate all oppressed humanity, and will terminate all forms of exploitation of one part of society by another.

A necessary condition for this social revolution is the dictatorship of the proletariat; that is, the conquering by the proletariat of such political power as would enable it to crush any resistance offered by the exploiters. In its effort to make the proletariat capable of fulfilling its great historical mission, international social democracy organises it into an independent political party in opposition to all bourgeois parties, directs all the manifestations of its class struggle, discloses before it the irreconcilable conflict between the interests of the exploiters and those of the exploited, and clarifies for it the historical significance of the imminent social revolution and the conditions necessary for its coming. At the same time, it reveals to the other sections of the toiling and exploited masses the hopelessness of their condition in capitalist society and the need for a social revolution if they wish to be free of the capitalist yoke. The party of the working class, the social democracy, calls upon all strata of the toiling and exploited population to join its ranks insofar as they accept the point of view of the proletariat.

On the road toward their common final goal, which is determined by the prevalence of the capitalist system of production throughout the civilised world, the social democrats of different countries must devote themselves to different immediate tasks - first, because that system is not everywhere developed to the same degree; and second, because in different countries its development takes place in a different socio-political setting.

In Russia, where capitalism has already become the dominant mode of production, there are still preserved numerous vestiges of the old pre-capitalist order, when the toiling masses were serfs of the landowners, the state, or the sovereign. Greatly hampering economic progress, these vestiges interfere with the many-sided development of the class struggle of the proletariat, help to preserve and strengthen the most barbarous forms of exploitation by the state and the propertied classes of the millions of peasants, and thus keep the whole people in darkness and subjection. The most outstanding among these relics of the past, the mightiest bulwark of all this barbarism, is the tsarist autocracy. By its very name it is bound to be hostile to any social movement, and cannot but be bitterly opposed to all the aspirations of the proletariat toward freedom.

The Russian Social Democratic Labour Party therefore sets as its immediate political task the overthrow of the tsarist autocracy and its replacement by a democratic republic whose constitution would guarantee:

  1. The sovereignty of the people; i.e., the concentration of the supreme power of the state in a unicameral legislative assembly composed of representatives of the people.
  2. Universal, equal and direct suffrage for all citizens, male and female, who have reached the age of twenty;...a secret ballot in these elections....
  3. Broad local self-government; regional self-government for localities with special conditions of life or a particular make-up of the population.
  4. Inviolability of person and dwelling.
  5. Unrestricted freedom of conscience, speech, press and assembly; the right to strike and to form trade unions.
  6. Freedom of movement and occupation.
  7. Elimination of class privileges and the complete equality of all regardless of sex, religion, race or nationality.
  8. The right of any person to obtain an education in their native language...; the use of the native language together with the state language in all local, public and state institutions.
  9. National self-determination for all nations forming part of the state.
  10. The right of every person through normal channels to prosecute before a jury any official.
  11. The popular election of judges.
  12. The replacement of the standing army by the general arming of the population (i.e. the formation of a people's militia).
  13. Separation of church and state, and of school and church.
  14. Free and compulsory general or vocational education for all children of both sexes up to the age of sixteen; provision by the state of food, clothes, and school supplies for poor children.

As a fundamental condition for the democratisation of our national economy, the RSDRP demands the abolition of all indirect taxation and the introduction of a graduated tax on incomes and inheritances.

To protect the working class from physical and moral degradation, and also to develop its capacity for the liberation struggle; the party demands:

  1. Limitation of the working day to eight hours for all hired workers. ...
  2. A complete ban on overtime work.
  3. A ban on night work...with the exception of those (industries) which absolutely require it for technical reasons....
  4. The prohibition of the employment of children of school age. . . .
  5. A ban on the use of female labour in occupations which are harmful to the health of women; maternity leave from four weeks prior to childbirth until six weeks after birth....
  6. The provision of nurseries for infants and young children in all ...enterprises employing women.
  7. State insurance for workers against old age and partial or complete disability through a special fund supported by a tax on capitalists....
  8. The appointment of an adequate number of factory inspectors in all branches of the economy....
  9. The supervision by organs of local self-government, together with elected workers' representatives, of sanitary conditions in factory housing....
  10. The establishment of properly organised health inspection in all enterprises...free medical services for workers at the employer's expense, with wages to be paid during time of illness.
  11. Establishment of criminal responsibility of employers for violations of laws intended to protect workers.
  12. The establishment in all branches of the economy of industrial tribunals made up equally of representatives of the workers and of management.
  13. Imposition upon the organs of local self-government of the duty of establishing employment agencies (labour exchanges) to deal with the hiring of local and non-local labour in all branches of industry, and participation of workers' and employers' representatives in their administration.

In order to eliminate the remnants of serfdom, which lie as an oppressive burden on the peasantry, and to further the free development of the class struggle in the countryside, the party demands above all:

  1. Abolition of redemption payments and quit rents as well as all obligations which presently fall on the peasantry, the tax-paying class.
  2. The repeal of all laws hampering the peasant's disposal of his own land.
  3. The return to the peasants of all moneys taken from them in the form of redemption payments and quitrents; the confiscation, for this purpose, of monastic and church property as well as of lands owned by the emperor, government agencies and members of the tsar's family; the imposition of a special tax on estates of the land-owning nobility who have availed themselves of the redemption loans; the deposit of sums obtained in this way into a special fund for the cultural and charitable needs of the village communities.
  4. The institution of peasant committees:
  5. The granting to the courts of the right to reduce excessively high rents and to declare null and void all transactions reflecting relations of servitude.

In striving to achieve its immediate goals, the RSDRP will support any opposition or revolutionary movement directed against the existing social and political order in Russia. At the same time, it resolutely rejects all reformist projects involving any broadening or strengthening of police or bureaucratic tutelage over the toiling classes.

The RSDRP, for its part, is firmly convinced that the complete, consistent and lasting realisation of these political and social changes can only be achieved through the overthrow of the autocracy and the convocation of a constituent assembly freely elected by the entire nation.

Programme of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party (RSDRP),1 August 1903

Source: General ed. R.H. McNeal,Resolutions and Decisions of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, vol. 1: The Russian Social Democratic Labour Party, 1898-October 1917, ed. R.C. Elwood. Toronto, 1974, pp. 42-5.


Back to Russian Home Page
Back to Russian History Home Page