Socialism in One Country

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Socialism in One Country (Russian: Социализм в одной стране Sotsializm v odnoi strane) was a theory put forth by Joseph Stalin in 1924, elaborated by Nikolai Bukharin in 1925 and finally adopted by the Soviet Union as state policy. The theory held that given the defeat of all the communist revolutions in Europe in 1917–1921 except Russia's, the Soviet Union should begin to strengthen itself internally. That turn toward national communism was a shift from the previously held Marxist position that socialism must be established globally (world communism), and it was in opposition to Leon Trotsky's theory of permanent revolution.


The defeat of several proletarian revolutions in countries like Germany and Hungary ended Bolsheviks hopes for an imminent world revolution and began promotion of "Socialism in One Country" by Stalin. In the first edition of the book Osnovy Leninizma (Foundations of Leninism, 1924), Stalin was still a follower of Vladimir Lenin's idea that revolution in one country is insufficient. But by the end of that year, in the second edition of the book, his position started to turn around: the "proletariat can and must build the socialist society in one country". In April 1925, Nikolai Bukharin elaborated the issue in his brochure Can We Build Socialism in One Country in the Absence of the Victory of the West-European Proletariat? The position was adopted as the state policy after Stalin's January 1926 article On the Issues of Leninism (К вопросам ленинизма).

1925-6 signaled a shift from the immediate activity of the Comintern, the Communist International, from world revolution towards a defense of the Soviet state. This period, up to 1928, was known as the "Second Period", mirroring the shift in the USSR from war communism to the New Economic Policy.[1]

In his 1915 article "On the Slogan for a United States of Europe", Lenin stated the following: "Uneven economic and political development is an absolute law of capitalism. Hence, the victory of socialism is possible first in several or even in one capitalist country alone. After expropriating the capitalists and organising their own socialist production, the victorious proletariat of that country will arise against the rest of the world...." Again, in 1918, he wrote, “I know that there are, of course, sages who think they are very clever and even call themselves Socialists, who assert that power should not have been seized until the revolution had broken out in all countries. They do not suspect that by speaking in this way they are deserting the revolution and going over to the side of the bourgeoisie. To wait until the toiling classes bring about a revolution on an international scale means that everybody should stand stock-still in expectation. That is nonsense.” (Speech delivered at a joint meeting of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee and the Moscow Soviet, 14 May 1918, Collected Works, Vol. 23, p. 9.).

After Lenin's death, Stalin used these quotes and others to argue that Lenin shared his view of Socialism in One Country.

The theory of Socialism in One Country was vigorously criticized by Grigory Zinoviev and Leon Trotsky. In particular, Trotskyists often claimed, and still claim, that Socialism in One Country opposes both the basic tenets of Marxism and Lenin's particular beliefs[2] that the final success of socialism in one country depends upon the revolution's degree of success in proletarian revolutions in the more advanced countries of Western Europe.


Stalin presented the theory of "Socialism in one country" as a further development of Leninism basing on Lenin's quotes mentioned earlier.

In his 14 February 1938 Response to Comrade Ivanov ("Ответ товарищу Иванову, Ивану Филиповичу"), formulated as an answer to a question of a "comrade Ivanov" mailed to Pravda newspaper, Stalin splits the question in two parts. The first side of the question is in terms of the internal relations within the Soviet Union: whether it is possible to construct the Socialist Society by defeating the local bourgeoisie and fostering the union of workers and peasants.

Stalin quotes Lenin that "we have everything necessary to construct the complete socialism" and claims that despite the claims of Trotsky, Zinoviev and Kamenev ("who later became spies and fascist agents", in Stalin's words), the socialist society has for the most part been indeed constructed. The second side of the question is in terms of external relations: whether the victory of the socialism is "final", i.e., whether capitalism cannot possibly be restored. Here Stalin cites Lenin that the final victory is possible only on the international scale and only with the help of the workers of other countries.


On the question of socialist construction in a single country, Engels wrote:

"Will it be possible for this revolution to take place in one country alone?

No. By creating the world market, big industry has already brought all the peoples of the Earth, and especially the civilized peoples, into such close relation with one another that none is independent of what happens to the others. Further, it has co-ordinated the social development of the civilized countries to such an extent that, in all of them, bourgeoisie and proletariat have become the decisive classes, and the struggle between them the great struggle of the day. It follows that the communist revolution will not merely be a national phenomenon but must take place simultaneously in all civilized countries—that is to say, at least in England, America, France, and Germany. It will develop in each of these countries more or less rapidly, according as one country or the other has a more developed industry, greater wealth, a more significant mass of productive forces. Hence, it will go slowest and will meet most obstacles in Germany, most rapidly and with the fewest difficulties in England. It will have a powerful impact on the other countries of the world, and will radically alter the course of development which they have followed up to now, while greatly stepping up its pace. It is a universal revolution and will, accordingly, have a universal range." – Friedrich Engels, The Principles of Communism, 1847

See also


  1. Duncan Hallas The Comintern, chapter 5
  2. The Immediate Tasks of the Soviet Government by V.I. Lenin (1918). Lenin' Collected Works 4th English Edition, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1972 Volume 27, pages 235-77

Further reading

  • Ruth Fischer; John C. Leggett (2006). "Socialism in one country". Stalin and German Communism: A Study in the Origins of the State Party. Social Science Classics (2nd reprint ed.). Transaction Publishers. pp. 471–496. ISBN 0-87855-822-5.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • The Theory of Socialism in One Country; Max Shachtman.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Concerning questions of Leninism

External links