Impending Catastrophe and How to Combat It

Impending Catastrophe and How to Combat It


(Groziashchaia katastrofa i .kak s nei borot’sia), a work by V. I. Lenin devoted to establishing the economic platform of the Bolshevik Party on the eve of the October Socialist Revolution. The article was written on Sept. 10–14 (23–27), 1917, while Lenin was in hiding in Helsingfors, Finland, and it was printed in October 1917 as a separate pamphlet by the Priboi Publishing House (see Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 34. pp. 151–99).

In Impending Catastrophe and How to Combat It Lenin described the grave economic situation in Russia by the autumn of 1917, which was the result of the criminal predatory rule of the bourgeoisie, the complete inactivity of the ruling Menshevik and Socialist Revolutionary parties, and the continuation of the imperialist war. Lenin wrote that Russia was threatened by an inevitable catastrophe and the complete collapse of production. The bourgeoisie had intentionally and persistently sabotaged production, hoping that the economic chaos and impending famine would help to stifle the revolution and abolish the soviets. Having provided a profound Marxist analysis of the political and economic life of the country, Lenin established the necessity of Russia’s switching to the socialist path of development. Only the organization of a truly revolutionary power and a decisive break with the interests of capital could save the revolution and the country from the impending national catastrophe. At the time the question was whether to perish or to entrust one’s fate to the most revolutionary class—the proletariat. the only class capable of providing the transition to a higher method of production than capitalism.

The imperialist war had greatly accelerated the process of turning monopoly capitalism into state monopoly capitalism, which is the material preparation or threshold for socialism. “The objective process of development is such,” wrote Lenin, “that it is impossible to advance from monopolies . . . without advancing toward socialism. . . . There is no middle course. . . . Socialism is now gazing at us from all the windows of modern capitalism; socialism is outlined directly, practically, by every important measure that constitutes a forward step on the basis of this modern capitalism” (ibid., pp. 192–93).

According to Lenin, the first steps to socialism that the proletariat should take on coming to power included control of the production and distribution of products, nationalization of all the nation’s banks and major capitalist monopolies, confiscation of landlords’ estates, and nationalization of all land in the nation. In addition, he formulated the task of the proletariat and its party for the longer historical period— namely, to catch up with and surpass the economically advanced capitalist nations. “The revolution.” Lenin pointed out, “has resulted in Russia catching up in a few months with the advanced countries, as far as her political structure is concerned. But that is not enough. The war is inexorable: it puts the alternative with ruthless severity: either perish or overtake and surpass the advanced countries economically as well .... Perish or forge full steam ahead. That is the alternative put by history” (ibid., p. 198).

Lenin’s work armed the Bolshevik Party with a clear plan for saving the nation from the impending economic catastrophe. In the work Lenin posed the historic task of a fundamental transformation of Russia—of overcoming Russia’s lag behind the advanced capitalist nations in economic terms and turning the country into a developed and powerful socialist state. Lenin’s work played an enormous role in preparing the Russian working class and its party for the socialist revolution. After the victory of the October Revolution, the work became a basic document of the Bolsheviks in their struggle for the complete and final victory of socialism. Lenin’s work is a guide to action for the Communist and worker’s parties of the socialist nations, which are struggling to build a developed socialist society. The Communists of the capitalist nations are guided in their struggle for democracy and socialism by the ideas in the book and the Leninist principles of analyzing a concrete historical situation.