Expropriation of the Expropriators

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Expropriation of the Expropriators


the regular process of liquidating private ownership by the exploiting classes through the confiscation of the means of production and the transfer of the means of production to the working people. Expropriation of the expropriators is the initial stage of socialization.

The possibility and necessity of expropriating the expropriators follow from the antagonistic contradictions between the increasing socialization of production and the private, capitalist form of appropriation and between the few usurpers (the class of proprietor-exploiters) and the majority of the people (the working people, who are deprived of the means of production). These contradictions increase under premonopoly capitalism and are markedly exacerbated under imperialism. The socialization of labor under capitalism is intensified by the concentration and centralization of capital, a process that occurs in the course of competition among capitalists. “The monopoly of capital,” wrote K. Marx, “becomes a fetter upon the mode of production, which has sprung up and flourished along with and under it. Centralization of the means of production and socialization of labor at last reach a point where they become incompatible with their capitalist integument. This integument is burst asunder. The knell of capitalist private property sounds. The expropriators are expropriated” (K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 23, pp. 772–73).

The expropriation of the expropriators is lawful, since the sizable property of the exploiting class was accumulated by robbing and mercilessly exploiting the working masses. Therefore, depriving the exploiters of their property is a legitimate and justified act. The working people thereby regain the wealth that they created, that is rightfully theirs, and that was taken from them by force.

After the victory of the Great October Socialist Revolution of 1917, the working class of the world’s first socialist state, in alliance with the poor peasants and under the leadership of the Communist Party headed by V. I. Lenin, expropriated the capitalists and landowners; the workers and peasants instituted social ownership of the basic means of production, including land, industries, and railroads.

Marx and Lenin allowed for the possibility of compensating the bourgeoisie for the means of production. They regarded compensation as a method of compromise for peacefully subordinating the capitalists and for introducing the capitalists to socially useful labor under the supervision of the socialist state. After the establishment of the proletarian dictatorship in Russia, however, the bourgeoisie bitterly opposed the new regime and chose to engage in counterrevolution. Faced with acute class conflict, the proletariat suppressed the exploiters. Expropriation of the expropriators was accomplished rapidly by confiscating the property of the capitalists and pomeshchiki (large-scale landowners). The conversion of the means of production into social property marked the creation of the socialist economic system. The productive property of small producers was gradually transformed into collective, socialist property through the producers’ voluntary cooperation. State capitalism played a preparatory role in the transition to socialism.

The multifaceted experience of the USSR in expropriating the expropriators has been drawn upon by other countries that have embarked on the path of socialist construction. The forms and methods of expropriating the expropriators have varied, however, according to the specific historical conditions under which revolutionary economic reforms have been accomplished. These differences have affected the speed of expropriation, the payment of compensation, the extent to which various forms of state capitalism have been used for the gradual conversion of private property into socialist property, and the organization of the socialist sector. In the countries of Asia and Central Southeastern Europe that embarked on the path of socialism during and after World War II, the property of the collaborationist bourgeoisie was confiscated in the course of carrying out democratic and socialist reforms. In a number of countries that have been liberated from the colonial yoke and have embarked on a path of independent development, the property of foreign monopolies is being expropriated, and state ownership of the means of production is being established.


Marx, K., and F. Engels. Manifest Kommunisticheskoi partii. Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 4.
Marx, K. Kapital, vol. 1. Ibid., vol. 23, ch. 24, sec. 7.
Lenin, V. I. Gosudarstvo i revoliutsiia. Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 33.
Lenin, V. I. Groziashchaia katastrofa i kak s nei borol’sia. Ibid., vol. 34.
Lenin, V. I. “Ocherednye zadachi Sovetskoi vlasti.” Ibid., vol. 36.
Lenin. V. I. “Ill kongress Kommunisticheskogo Internatsionala 22 iiunia-12 üulia 1921 g.” Ibid., vol. 44, pp. 3–12 and 34–54.
Programma KPSS. Moscow, 1976.
Materialy XXV s”ezda KPSS. Moscow, 1977.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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