Comrade Bukharin's article touches upon another question worthy of consideration.
"The question of the revision of our Party programme should be bound up with the question of working out a single programme for the international party of the proletariat."
This is not very clearly expressed. If we take it to mean that the author advises us not to accept a new programme until a single international programme, a programme of the Third International, has been drawn up, then we have to object to this opinion most decisively. To postpone it on this account (I presume that there are no other reasons for delay; no one, for instance, demanded a postponement on account of inadequate preparation of our Party material for the revision) would be equivalent to our delaying the foundation of the Third International. The foundation of the Third International ought not of course to be understood formally. Not until the proletarian revolution has triumphed in at least one country, or until the war has come to an end, may we hope for a speedy and successful advance in convening a great conference of internationalist revolutionary parties of various countries; or for their consent to a formal adoption of a new programme. In the meantime we must advance our cause on the initiative of those parties which are now in a more favourable position than the others and can take the first step—not viewing it, of course, as the last step, not necessarily opposing their programme to other "Left" (i.e., internationalist revolutionary) programmes, but working directly towards the formulation of a general programme. Outside of Russia there is at present no other country in the world where there is comparative freedom for internationalists to meet, and where there are as many comrades well informed on subjects concerning international movements and programmes as there are in our Party. This is why we must take the initiative upon ourselves. This is our immediate duty as internationalists.
Apparently Comrade Bukharin views this matter in exactly the same way. At the beginning of the article he says that "the Party Congress which has just been concluded [it was written in August] recognised the necessity of revising the programme" and that "a special congress will be called for this purpose". We conclude from this that Comrade Bukharin has no objections to the adoption of a new programme at that congress.
If so, then we have perfect unanimity on this question. Hardly anyone would be against the proposition that our congress, upon adopting a new programme, express a desire to draw up a single general programme for the Third International, and take certain steps in that direction—hasten the conference of the Lefts, publish a collection of articles in several languages, set up a committee for the purpose of collecting material on what has been done in other countries in order to "feel the way" (according to Comrade Bukharin's correct expression) for a new programme (the "Tribunists" in Holland, the Lefts in Germany. The Socialist Propaganda League in America has already been mentioned by Comrade Bukharin; we may also mention the American Socialist Labour Party and its demand that "the political state give way to industrial democracy").
Comrade Bukharin has pointed out a flaw in my draft which I must acknowledge to be absolutely correct. He cites a passage in the draft (page 23 of the pamphlet[See present edition, Vol. 24, p. 471. —Ed.]) where I discuss the present situation in Russia, the capitalist Provisional Government, etc. Comrade Bukharin is right in criticising this passage and saying that it should be transferred to the resolution on tactics or to the platform. I therefore propose either to leave out the last paragraph on page 23 altogether, or to put it as follows:
"Striving for a political system which would best ensure economic progress and the rights of the people in general, and, in particular, make the transition to socialism as painless as possible, the party of the proletariat cannot rest content", etc.
Finally, I must answer one question raised by a few comrades, but as far as I know, not yet discussed in the press. This is the question of Clause 9 of our political programme on the right of nations to self-determination. This clause consists of two parts: the first part is a new statement on the right to self-determination; the second contains not a demand but a declaration. I am asked whether a declaration is in place here. Generally speaking, there is no place for declarations in a programme, but I think an exception to the rule is necessary here. Instead of the word self-determination, which has given rise to numerous misinterpretations, I propose the perfectly precise concept: "the right to free secession". After six months' experience of the 1917 Revolution, it is hardly possible to dispute that the party of the revolutionary proletariat of Russia, the party which uses the Great Russian language, is obliged to recognise the right to secede. When we win power, we shall immediately and unconditionally recognise this right for Finland, the Ukraine, Armenia, and any other nationality oppressed by tsarism (and the Great-Russian bourgeoisie). On the other hand, we do not at all favour secession. We want as vast a state, as close an alliance of the greatest possible number of nations who are neighbours of the Great Russians; we desire this in the interests of democracy and socialism, to attract into the struggle of the proletariat the greatest possible number of the working people of different nations. We desire proletarian revolutionary unity, unification, and not secession. We desire revolutionary unification; that is why our slogan does not call for unification of all states in general, for the social revolution demands the unification only of those states which have gone over or are going over to socialism, colonies which are gaining their freedom, etc. We want free unification; that is why we must recognise the right to secede (without freedom to secede, unification cannot be called free). The more so must we recognise the right of secession, because tsarism and the Great-Russian bourgeoisie have by their oppression left great bitterness and distrust of the Great Russians generally in the hearts of the neighbouring nations, and these must be eradicated by deeds and not by words.
But we want unification, and this must be stated; it is so important to state it in the programme of a party of a heterogeneous state that it is necessary to abandon custom and to incorporate a declaration. We want the republic of the Russian (I am even inclined to say Great-Russian, for this is more correct) people to attract other nations to it. But how? Not by violence, but solely by voluntary agreement. Otherwise the unity and the brotherly ties of the workers of all countries are broken. Unlike the bourgeois democrats, we call for the brotherhood of workers of all nationalities, and not the brotherhood of nations, for we do not trust the bourgeoisie of any country, we regard them as our enemies.
This is why we should here allow an exception to the rule by inserting in Clause 9 a declaration of principles.