Guy A. Aldred Archive

Communism : Story of the Communist Party
Chapter 4
Socialism in One Country

Written: 1935.
Transcription/Markup: Andy Carloff
Online Source:; 2021

As late as the 5th Congress of the Comintern, in 1924, Stalin, Zinoviev, Bucharin, and other Trotsky-baiters, denied that the German defeat had given the bourgeoisie of Central Europe the breathing space it sought and needed. They defined it as a mere episode and declared that the Opposition had lost faith in the Revolution. It was but a step from this denunciation to the assertion that the revolutionary situation was right ahead. From this flambuoyant optimism, Stalinism progressed rapidly to the pessimistic belief that the Revolution in Western Europe was postponed indefinitely. The Stalinist bureaucracy became the liquidators; and so they developed the absurd theory of “ Socialism in One Country.” By its very formulation, this theory registers the fact that its authors had lost faith in the world revolution. “ Socialism in One Country “ is the doctrine of capitalist stabilization. Losovsky, as head of the Red International of Labor Unions, declared, on behalf of Stalinism, that the stabilization of Europe would last for decades. This was a denial of the Socialist dictum that we are living in a period of wars and proletarian revolution. Lenin certainly embraced this dictum; but it does not follow that he never flirted with the idea of building Socialism in Russia.

Until 1924, the Utopian idea of “ Socialism in One Country “ was never entertained seriously by the Communist: movement. Marx and Engels had attacked the idea as Utopian and even Stalin admitted that these pioneers of scientific Socialism never considered the possibility of a national Socialist Utopia. Stalin declared that the idea was “ formulated first by Lenin in 1915.”

Stalinists claim that this theory of “Socialism in One Country,” meaning Russia, was a matter of vital difference between Lenin and Trotsky since 1915. On April 12, 1916, writing in his paper, Nashe Slavo, Trotsky replied to Lenin and challenged his conception as “ national limitedness.” He declared that the Western Capitalist powers were “ ripe for the social revolution,” but that Russia, Africa, and Asia were not. Trotsky added :
” To examine the prospects of social revolution in a national framework would mean becoming a victim of that same NATIONAL LIMITEDNESS which constitutes the essence of social-patriotism.... To struggle for the maintenance of the national base of the revolution by methods which break up the international connections of the proletariat means, in fact, undermining the revolution.”

In 1922, Lenin informed the Moscow Soviet that ° we have dragged Socialism into everyday life “ and prophesied that “ Russia of N.E.P. will become Socialist Russia.” This statement was false and the fact that Lenin uttered it does not make it true.

The same year Trotsky republished his 1915–16 articles, under the title, “ A Peace Program,” with an “Afterword,” in which he declared that Russia had “ not come to the creation of a Socialist order and “ had “ not even approached it.” He added that “ the genuine rise of Socialist economy in Russia will become possible only after the victory of the proletariat in the most important countries in Europe.”

Four years later, Trotsky repeated this view, and argued rightly that the theory of building Socialism in one country is “ the theoretical justification of national limitedness.” In 1933, he denounced the theory as “ a petty bourgeois Utopia.”

The Stalinists urge that this is not an attack on Stalin but on Lenin. Even so, such an attack would not be criminal. It may prove that Trotsky is not a” Leninist,” but it does not establish Lenin’s reputation as a Socialist, and it certainly destroys his claim to be regarded as a clear social thinker.

It is contended that the only concession made to the necessity for world revolution by Lenin was the admission that the only final guarantee that it could exist once it had been built was in the overthrow of the Capitalist states, i.e., world revolution in order to protect Russia against military attack.

The reply to this apology for nationalist error is simple. It is to denounce the absurdity of this one country theory, irrespective of responsibility for authorship. Lenin’s attitude did contribute to the development of this reactionary thesis, but there can be no question that history left Stalin to champion and exalt the absurd notion to a vision of “ revolutionary “ achievement.

Lenin played a most important part in the 1917 revolution, but there is not a single reference to this theory in the program of the Bolshevik party at the time. The program of the Young Communist League of Russia, adopted in 1921, under the supervision of Bucharin and the Central Committee of the party, declares that Russia “ can arrive at Socialism only through the World Proletarian Revolution, which epoch we have now entered.” The 4th Congress of the Comintern in 1922, resolved unanimously that the Russian Revolution “ reminds the proletarians of all countries that the Proletarian Revolution can never be completely victorious within one single country, but that it must win the victory Internationally, as the World Revolution. ”

Three years before this, Bucharin had declared that the establishment of Socialism in Russia could “ begin only with the victory of the proletariat in several large countries.” Stalin, in the second edition of his “ Problems of Leninism,” advanced the cautious formula that “ the victorious proletariat of one country,” after it “ had consolidated its power and won over the peasantry for itself,” “ can and must build up the Socialist Society.” This statement is removed far from the unrestrained nationalistic gospel of “ Socialism in One Country,” of developed Stalinism. Even so, the formula has been substituted for almost definite opposite statement in the first edition of this work. Here Stalin declared that the final victory of Socialism for the organization of Socialist construction could not be attained in one country, but required the “ joint efforts “ of the proletariat of several advanced countries. Which is, of course, the correct view.

The theory of Socialism in one country was not written into the program of the Communist International until 1928. It had been advanced by Stalin since 1924, and was associated with an unbroken chain of proletarian defeats. The theory undermined the proletarian struggle towards the world revolution and substituted counter-revolutionary political dictatorship over the proletariat for the revolutionary struggle of the proletariat towards a world of freedom. It made a farce of the revolutionary claims of the Soviet
Union and Socialist Republic. One of the events which illustrated the growing menace of the theory was the British General Strike of 1926.