A document such as the 1961 Draft Program of the CPSU serves so many different purposes that at first sight it may appear pointless to try to classify it with reference to the tradition it purports to incarnate. It is obvious that its prime use lies in the propaganda field, and that for the rest its significance is likely to depend on shifting political alignments within the ruling Party apparatus; itself a governing body not clearly differentiated from the dominant social stratum of Soviet society, including, as it does, genuine representatives of the latter along with veterans of the Stalinist epoch and spokesmen of a Leninist tradition which almost half a century ago supplied the “professional revolutionaries” with an operational code.
A proper textual analysis of the document would have to distinguish all these strata, relate what is genuinely operational to the actual policies of the Party leadership, draw the necessary distinctions between the general framework of Leninist philosophy and the specific elements of current Soviet theory and practice, and in addition, supply the kind of critical commentary that Marx appended to the Gotha Program of 1875; or, if one wants to be more modest, Lenin’s own rather long-winded “Notes on Plekhanov’s Draft Program” in 1902 (Collected Works, vol. VI). Instead, I propose to address myself to a single subject, namely, the status of the Program within the general tradition of “Marxism-Leninism,” so-called.
I must make it plain at the outset that I regard “Marxism-Leninism” as a misnomer, insofar as it treats Marx as a precursor of Lenin, and Leninism consequently as the realization of the “union of theory and practice.” But since the entire Soviet world-view is based on the assertion that Leninism is the contemporary form of Marxism, it is necessary to begin from there, whatever one’s own views. This is the proper starting point for considering the Program, since as an intellectual production it is held together and validated by precisely this claim. The first step, therefore, must consist in asking what one means by Leninism, and in what sense the Draft Program is to be regarded as a Leninist document.
There are perfectly good theoretical reasons for adopting this approach, but there is also an eminently practical one: namely, the fact that we are dealing with the outlook of the Russian State Party, whose founder was the creator of the Soviet regime, pre- and post-Stalin. The danger of forgetting this is vividly illustrated by those Western writings which somehow manage to treat Bolshevism in abstraction from the Russian Revolution.