Nikolai Bukharin & the Transition from Capitalism to Socialism

Nikolai Bukharin & the Transition from Capitalism to Socialism

Nikolai Bukharin & the Transition from Capitalism to Socialism

Nikolai Bukharin & the Transition from Capitalism to Socialism

Excerpt

Writing in the mid-nineteenth century the French revolutionary, Auguste Blanqui, likened revolution to crossing a river. Instead of standing on the bank quarrelling over whether the field on the other side was wheat or rye, he wrote, the point is to cross and see! In this, at least, Marx too would have been at one with Blanqui's impatience. He also had little time for those for whom socialism consisted of idle speculation about the blueprints for some ideal society. It was Marx's strength, as Lenin later stressed, that he had no truck with such utopianism. On the contrary, Marx's early work had been a struggle against the proponents of 'new moral worlds' and for a recognition of the working class as the class which would make socialism through its own conscious action. Yet by Lenin's time the inadequacy of this, except as a most preliminary answer to the question of the nature of the transition to socialism, was already becoming apparent. Indeed, Lenin himself then went on to write State and Revolution, a book which does nothing if not dispute the nature of the field on the other side of the river. Moreover, he wrote this in the very midst of the Russian Revolution - clearly it was not sufficient just to cross the river and see.

What then had changed? What led Lenin and the Bolsheviks, even before the October Revolution had successfully overthrown the Tsarist state, to spend so much energy considering the nature of the transition to socialism? And what makes it important to take up this question again today? Certainly the answer does not lie in some new-found respect for the utopian socialists of old. It lies rather in the recognition that the problem of how to cross the river (and here Blanqui's analogy breaks down) cannot be separated from the question of whether the field on the other side is really of wheat or rye. In short, the issue of the transition to socialism takes us directly to the heart of contemporary debates about capitalism and the possibility of socialism.

Lenin was writing against a background of discussion in the Second International in which the problem of the transition to socialism had received little explicit attention. Socialism increasingly appeared as a distant utopia which related to the present only as an abstract moral goal. The leading social-democrats of the day came, in practice, to adopt a position that has been likened to that of the Victorian clergyman who assured his doubting parishioner that the Second Coming . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.