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Extracts from

The ABC of Communism

by N. Buharin and E. Preobrazhensky, 1919

[The first section What is a Program illustrates the view of the party as the agent of a class or classes:]

Every party pursues definite aims, whether it be a party of landowners or capitalists, on the one hand, or a party of workers or peasants, on the other. Every party must have definite aims, for otherwise it is not a party.

If it be a party representing the interests of landowners, it will pursue the aims of landowners; it will endeavour to tighten the grasp of the owners upon the soil; to hold the peasants in bondage; to secure a high price for the produce of the landowners' estates; to hire labour cheaply; to rackrent the farms.

If it be a party of capitalists and factory owners, it will likewise have its own aims: to procure cheap labour, to keep the workers well in hand, to find customers to whom the wares can be sold at the highest possible price, to obtain ever larger profits, for this purpose to compel the workers to toil harder- but, above all, so to arrange matters that the workers will have no tendency to allow their thoughts to turn towards ideas of a news social order; let the workers think that there always have been masters and always will be masters.

Such are the aims of the factory owners. It is self-evident that the workers and peasants will have utterly different aims from these, seeing that their interests are utterly different from those of the capitalists and landowners.

People used to say: "What is wholesome for a Russian is death to a German." It would, in fact, be more accurate to say "What is wholesome for a worker is death to a landowner or capitalist." That is to say, the worker has certain things to do, the capitalist other things, and the landowner yet others.

Not every landowner. however, thinks out logically what is the best way of getting the last farthing out of the peasants; many landowners are drunk most of the time, and do not even consider their bailiff's reports. The same thing happens in the case of the peasants and of the workers. There are some who say: "Oh, well, we shall get along somehow; why bother? we shall go on living as our fathers have always lived". Such persons never achieve anything, and do not even understand their own interests.

On the other hand, those who realise how they can best defend their own interests, organise themselves into a party. Of course the class as a whole does not enter the party, which is composed of the best and most energetic members of the class; thus those who enter the party lead the rest...

Why Religion and Communism are incompatible

"Religion is the opium of the people", said Karl Marx. It is the task of the Communist Party to make this truth comprehensible to the widest possible circles of the labouring masses. It is the task of the party to impress firmly upon the minds of the workers, even upon the most backward, that religion has been in the past and still is today one of the most powerful means at the disposal of the oppressors for the maintenance of inequality, exploitation, and slavish obedience on the part of the toilers.

Many weak-kneed communists reason as follows: "Religion does not prevent me being a communist. I believe in God and in communism. My faith in God does not hinder me from fighting for the cause of the proletarian revolution".

This train of thought is radically false. Religion and communism are incompatible, both theoretically and practically.

Every communist must regard social phenomena (the relationship between human beings, revolutions, wars, etc.) as processes which occur in accordance with definite laws. The laws of social development have been fully established by scientific communism on the basis of the theory of historical materialism which we owe to our great teachers Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. This theory explains that social development is not brought about by any kind of supernatural forces. Nay more. The same theory has demonstrated that the very idea of God and of supernatural powers arises at a definite stage of human history, and at another definite stage begins to disappear as a childish notion which finds no confirmation in practical life and in the struggle between man and nature.

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