Comrade Sokolnikov "subjects to a general revision" the fifth section of the programme, the one dealing with crises. He finds that the old programme "sins in theory to win popularity" and "deviates from Marx's theory of crises".
Comrade Sokolnikov suggests that the word "overproduction" is made "the basis of the explanation" of crises in the old programme and that "such a view is more in keeping with the theory of Rodbertus who explains crises as being due to under-consumption by the working class".
A comparison of the old text with the new one proposed by Comrade Sokolnikov will show how unsuccessful his hunt for theoretical heresy has been, and how Rodbertus has been dragged in by the hair.
The old text contains the following, after mention (in the fourth section) of "technical progress", intensified exploitation of labour, and relatively lower consumption by the workers: "This state of affairs in the bourgeois countries, etc., makes it more and more difficult for them to market commodities produced in ever-increasing quantities. Overproduction, manifesting itself in . . . crises . . . and periods of stagnation . . . is an inevitable consequence. . . ."
It is clear that here overproduction is by no means used as the "basis of the explanation" of crises, but that this is only a description of the origin of crises and periods of stagnation. In Comrade Sokolnikov's draft we read the following:
"The development of the productive forces assuming these contradictory forms, in which the conditions of production come into conflict with the conditions of consumption and the conditions for the realisation of capital with those for its accumulation—this development, whose sole motive force is the pursuit of profit, has as its inevitable consequence acute industrial crises and depressions which signify the cessation of the sale of commodities, anarchically produced in ever-increasing quantities."
Comrade Sokolnikov said exactly the same thing, because "the cessation of the sale of commodities" produced in "ever increasing quantities", is exactly what we call overproduction. There is no need for him to fear this word, there is nothing inaccurate in it. It is useless for Comrade Sokolnikov to write that instead of "overproduction", "underproduction might be used, with much the same or even more reason" (page 15 of the Moscow pamphlet).
Well, just try calling the "cessation of the sale of commodities", "produced in ever-increasing quantities", "underproduction"! It cannot be done.
Rodbertus's theory is not merely a matter of using the word "overproduction" (which alone exactly describes one of the profoundest contradictions of capitalism), but of explaining crises merely as the result of insufficient consumption by the working class. The old programme does not deduce crises from insufficient consumption. It bases its explanation on "this state of affairs in the bourgeois countries", as has been described in the preceding section of the programme and which consists in "technical progress" and "the relatively lower demand for human labour-power". Alongside of this the old programme speaks of "the ever-growing competition on the world market".
Here something basic is said about the conflict between the conditions for accumulation and the conditions for realisation, and is said much more clearly. The theory has not been "changed" here at all, "to win popularity", as Comrade Sokolnikov erroneously thinks, but is presented clearly and popularly, which is a good point.
Of crises, to be sure, one could write volumes, one might give a more concrete analysis of the conditions of accumulation, mention the role of the means of production, of the exchange of surplus value and variable capital expressed in the means of production for constant capital expressed in articles of consumption, of the depreciation of constant capital due to new inventions, and so on, and so forth. But Comrade Sokolnikov makes no attempt to do this! His supposed correction of the programme consists only in the following:
1. Having preserved the plan of transition from the fourth to the fifth section, from the reference to technical progress, etc., to crises, he weakened the connection between the two sections by leaving out the words, "this state of affairs".
2. He added theoretical-sounding phrases about the conflict between the conditions of production and the conditions of consumption, and between the conditions for realisation and the conditions for accumulation—phrases which are quite correct but which do not express any new idea, for the preceding section gives the substance of all this more clearly.
3. He adds "the pursuit of profit"—an expression hardly suited to the programme, and which is used here, we suspect, precisely "to win popularity", for the same idea is expressed several times in the phrases about "conditions for realisation", commodity production, etc.
4. He substitutes "depression" for "stagnation"; an unfortunate change.
5. He adds the word "anarchically" to the old text ("commodities, anarchically produced in ever-increasing quantities"). This addition is theoretically wrong, for "anarchy" or "absence of planning" using an expression from the Erfurt Programme and contested by Engels, does not exactly characterise trusts.[Engels criticised the expressions "private production" and "absence of planning" in the draft of the Erfurt Programme. He wrote: "If we go over from stock companies to trusts, which dominate and mononolise whole branches of industry, not only private production, but also the absence of planning comes to an end."]
Here is how Comrade Sokolnikov puts it:
"Commodities are anarchically produced in ever-increasing quantities. Efforts of capitalist associations (trusts and the like) to prevent crises by limiting production end in failure," etc.
But it is by trusts that commodities are not produced anarchically, but according to a plan. Trusts do not merely "limit" production. They do not make any efforts to prevent crises, nor can they make any such "efforts". Comrade Sokolnikov is guilty of a number of inaccuracies. What he should have said was: although trusts produce commodities not anarchically but according to a plan, crises nevertheless cannot be averted because of the above-mentioned characteristics of capitalism which are also inherent in the trusts. And if trusts, in periods of the greatest prosperity and speculation, limit production in the sense of being careful "not to go too far", then at best they only succeed in saving the largest enterprises; but crises come just the same.
Summarising all that has been said on the question of crises, we come to the conclusion that Comrade Sokolnikov has not improved upon the old programme. On the contrary, the new draft contains inaccuracies. The need to correct the old programme has not been proved.