Eighth Congress of the Russian Communist Party Bolshevik
Eighth Congress of the Russian Communist Party (Bolshevik)
held on Mar. 18-23, 1919, in Moscow. It was attended by 301 delegates with a deciding vote and 102 delegates with a consultative vote, representing 313,766 Party members.
By early 1919 the Party had set up a network of Party organizations structured in correspondence with the Soviet administrative-territorial division of the country (province, city, district, and volost [small rural district] committees), amounting to about 8,000 committees (see Istoriia Grazhdanskoi voiny v SSSR, vol. 3, 1957, pp. 312-13). The congress was ended by delegates representing 40 provincial Party organizations totaling 220,495 Party members, Party organizations of the Red Army totaling 29,706 members, and national Party organizations of Finland, Lithuania, Latvia, Byelorussia, and Poland totaling 63,565 members (see Vos’moi s”ezd RKP[B]: Protokoly, 1959, p. 274). The composition of the delegates to the congress was as follows (98 persons did not fill out the questionnaire): 128 delegates were under 30 years of age, 140 were from 30 to 40, and 37 were over 40. The average age was 31 years, the maximum age being 61 and the minimum, 16. By occupation, 27 were Party officials, 108 were workers, and 97 were office workers, doctors, and others. By education, 73 had a higher education, including those with an incomplete higher education, and 76 had a secondary education. By length of Party membership, 85 persons had joined the Party before 1905, 149 had joined from 1905 to 1917, and 77 had joined in 1917-18. The agenda of the congress included the report of the Central Committee of the RCP(B) (speaker, V. I. Lenin); the RCP(B) Program (speakers, V. I. Lenin and N. I. Bukharin); the setting up of the Comintern (speaker, G. E. Zinoviev); the military situation and military policy (speaker, G. la. Sokol’nikov); work in the village (speaker, V.I. Lenin; cospeaker, in the agricultural section, V. V. Kuraev); organizational questions (speaker, G. E. Zinoviev); and elections to the Central Committee.
The work of the congress was guided by V. I. Lenin. He devoted his introductory words to the memory of la. M. Sverdlov. In the report of the Central Committee of the RCP(B), Lenin elucidated questions of foreign and domestic policy and the organizational work of the Party; he emphasized the need for further strengthening of the Soviet state, the Red Army, and the alliance of the working class with the peasantry; he also emphasized the importance of drawing up and adopting a new Party program because the 1903 program had been realized. After discussing the report of the Central Committee, the congress unanimously ap-proved its activity. The Draft Program of the RCP(B) consisted of two major sections: a general (theoretical) section and a section formulating the tasks of the transition period from capitalism to socialism. The first section contained an appraisal of the October Revolution and its international significance and offered a characterization of simple commodity economy, capitalism, and imperialism and their contradictions that lead inevitably to the proletarian revolution. The section set the task of uniting the revolutionary actions of the proletarians of all countries and emphasized the need for the struggle against opportunism. The second section dealt with the tasks of the Party during the transition period in political, military, judicial, and economic activities and national and religious relations, in the spheres of public education, agriculture, distribution, money and banking, finance, housing construction, the protection of labor, social security, and public health. Lenin’s draft was adopted by the program commission that was selected at the Seventh Congress of the Party; however, in view of disagreement in the commission, two speakers reported to the Eighth Congress, Lenin from the majority and Bukharin from the minority. Bukharin proposed that the characterization of simple commodity economy and industrial capitalism be excluded from the program and that only the analysis of imperialism be retained. He viewed imperialism as a separate social and economic formation and defended the anti-Marxist thesis of so-called pure imperialism. In the concluding speech on the program Lenin demonstrated that Bukharin’s views were theoretically completely baseless and politically harmful. Lenin pointed out that “pure imperialism” did not exist and would never exist (see Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 38, p. 151). Imperialism is a superstructure over the old premonopoly capitalism. Bukharin’s demand that the characterization of the small commodity economy (peasant economy) be excluded would have led to a negation of the role of the middle peasant as an ally of the working class in socialist construction and to a diversion of attention from the struggle against the kulaks. N. I. Bukharin and G. L. Piatakov opposed a paragraph on the right of nations to self-determination—up to and including formation of separate states—on the grounds that a nation includes not only the proletariat but also the bourgeoisie. Bukharin proposed a slogan, “The right of the toiling masses to self-determination.” The congress unanimously supported Lenin’s proposal that every nation must be given the right to self-determination and that such a policy would promote the self-determination of the toiling masses. Lenin’s program for solving national questions had international significance. A renunciation of the slogan on the right of colonies and oppressed nations to self-determination up to and including the formation of separate states would have played into the hands of the imperialists.
The congress adopted Lenin’s draft program as a basis and turned it over to the commission of the congress for final editing. The program, which was unanimously adopted by the Eighth Congress, was the guiding document of the Communist Party until the Twenty-second Congress of the CPSU (1961), which adopted a new program.
The report on military questions substantiated the need to put an end to voluntary methods for building up the Red Army and to eliminate the spirit of vulgar partisanship among troops and to create a regular army, the Workers’ and Peasants’ Red Army, with an iron discipline; it confirmed the need to use military specialists from the old regime under the strict control of the Communist Party through the system of military commissars; the report proposed intensification of the training of commanders from among workers and peasants, strengthening Party and political bodies, and increasing the Communist influence in the Red Army. The line of the Central Committee of the RCP(B) was opposed by the so-called Military Opposition. Many delegates criticized L. D. Trotsky, who headed the war department, for neglect of Party leadership in the army and for haughty and dictatorial ways. The congress transferred the discussions of military questions to the military section, after which military questions were considered at a closed session of the congress. At this session Lenin defended the thesis of the Central Committee. He condemned the Military Opposition, which opposed centralized administration in the Red Army and defended the spirit of partisanship, and he devoted much attention to strengthening discipline and emphasized the importance of the commissars and of the Party-political apparatus in the training and indoctrination of Soviet soldiers. The decisions of the Eighth Congress on military questions were of an enormous importance for building up and strengthening the Red Army.
In the report entitled “On Work in the Countryside” Lenin substantiated the need for revising the attitudes toward the middle peasants. In the first months of the socialist revolution the middle peasants vacillated, and the Party therefore pursued a policy of neutralizing them. After the revolution the policy of the Party in the countryside had the effect of making the majority of the peasants middle peasants; the middle peasant became the central figure in the countryside. The military successes of the Red Army and the fear of the middle peasants that a victory of the White Guards would lead to a restoration of the rule of the landlords led the middle peasant to turn toward the Soviet power. In the resolution “On the Relation to the Middle Peasant,” adopted by the congress, Lenin set forth a new Party line on the peasant question: to know how to bring about an agreement with the middle peasants without abandoning for a minute the struggle against the kulaks and while continuing to rely firmly on the poor peasants. The congress also adopted the resolution “On Political Propaganda and Cultural and Educational Work in the Countryside.” The decisions of the congress on the peasant question were of tremendous importance in strengthening the alliance of the working class and the peasantry.
During the discussion of organizational questions (on building up the Party and Soviet institutions and on the leading role of the Party in the soviets) the Party policy was opposed by the opportunist group of T. V. Sapronov and N. Osinskii (V. V. Obolenskii), which also included M. I. Min’kov. This group denied the leading role of the Party in the soviets; it advocated a merger of the Sovnarkom (Council of People’s Commissars) with the Presidium of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee and a decentralization of the bodies of Soviet power. The congress rebuffed the opportunists decisively. The resolution on building up the Party underlined the need for the further growth of the Party from among the urban and rural proletariat, for improving the social composition of the Party, and for strengthening the Party’s link with the masses. In the area of building up the Soviet institutions, it was proposed that Soviet democracy be unswervingly observed and implemented. The congress stressed the need to strengthen the leading role of the Communist Party in the work of the soviets.
The congress welcomed the setting up of the Third, Communist, International and adhered to its platform. In the name of the delegates to the congress Lenin made a radio address welcoming the Hungarian Soviet Republic.
The congress established the structure of the Central Committee of the RCP(B): the Central Committee would organize the Politburo, the Orgburo, and the Secretariat. A resolution of the status of the Party organizations of the republics was adopted. The congress elected the Central Committee, composed of 19 members and eight candidate members, and an auditing committee composed of three persons.
The documents adopted by the congress determined the policy of the Party on major questions—the peasant, national, and military questions. The congress formulated for the first time the basic organizational principles of a Marxist party that had come to power and that was carrying out the leadership of the state. The Party and the people received a concrete program of the struggles in building the socialist society. The young communist parties of other countries were given a graphic example of a Leninist analysis of the conditions of struggle and a model of generalization of the early experience of a ruling Marxist party. Marxist science was enriched with conclusions stemming from the practice of socialist construction. 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.
REFERENCESLenin, V. I. “VIII s”ezd RKP(b), 18-23 marta 1919g.”Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 38, pp. 125-215.
Vos’moi s”ezd RKP(b): Protokoly. Moscow, 1959.
Istoriia KPSS, vol. 3, book 2. Moscow, 1968. Chapter 13. Leninskii sbornik, vol. 37. Moscow, 1970.
V. L. IGNAT’EV