by Tareq Rahim


Bukharin's Theory of
the Capitalist World Economy  
by Jennifer Kruczek

Nikolay Bukharin:
Left Communist to NEPman 

by Corey Lichtman

By Alexandra Ginieres



Nikolai Ivanovitch Bukharin was born in Moscow on September 27, 1888 (October 9 in the Gregorian Calendar), the second son of Ivan Gavrilovich and Liubov Ivavnovna Bukharin. His parents were very cultured and devoted lots of time to the boy’s education, and as a result Bukharin became the most intellectual and broadly educated of the Bolshevik political leaders. He had a particular interest in world literature and art, and by the time he joined the party at seventeen he already had a knowledge of foreign languages.

It was during his years as a schoolboy at the gymnasium that Bukharin encountered political radicalism and became interested in revolutionary politics. Russia at the time was in a state of social unrest and open protest. Russian’s backwardness and the injustices of czarist society were very evident, particularly in the aftermath of Russia’s disastrous war with Japan in 1904-5.


By 1905, at the age of sixteen, Bukharin had already become a leading member of the illegal student movement associated with the social democrats. As a political radical Bukharin was frequently imprisoned and was exiled in 1911, during which timed he lived and worked in Austria, Switzerland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and the United States.

It was during his time in exile that Bukharin established himself as a political thinker and theoretician. He completed his education and familiarized himself with western languages and theoretical literature. By 1917 he was able to speak and read German, French, and English. He published several important articles and completed The Economic Theory of the Leisure Class and Imperialism and World Economy.


After the March 1917 Revolution Bukharin returned to Moscow and established a reputation as a Bolshevik theorist that was so strong that it was second only to Lenin. He became a prominent organizer of the October Revolution, served for twenty years on the Central Committee of the Bolshevik Party, and was a member of the politburo for ten years. He was also in charge of Pravda between 1917 and 1929.

Although Bukharin and Lenin were often in disagreement over how Marx’s socialist system was to be put into practice, among many other things, the two began a strong relationship and had respect for each other. Lenin spoke of Bukharin as being "the greatest and most valuable theoretician in the party," and "deservedly the favourite of the party." Bukharin’s work influenced Lenin, in particular his book on imperialism, Imperialism and World Economy, which Lenin borrowed from in his own writings on the subject. After Lenin’s death Bukharin became the leading theorist of the party and was chief of staff of the Bolshevik Party.


Many see Bukharin as a strong supporter of NEP and therefore as someone who would have been in favor of market socialism. He has been seen by many as someone who wanted to maintain a fixed economy for the Soviet Union with a continuing role for market relations in the allocation of national resources, and as someone who was more tolerant of the peasantry than Stalin was.

During the early stages of NEP, many Bolsheviks, including Bukharin, viewed it as a retreat from a higher stage of socialism. In time though he viewed it as a necessary retreat and a new way of bringing down capitalism. He referred to it as "growing into socialism"


At first Bukharin appeared to be quite anti-statist, and believed that the socialist movement was to be built by the people. In time though he began to realize the need for the state to play a bigger role in the distribution of resources between agriculture and industry, and for overall planning. He was no longer defending the market and the interests of the peasantry as he had done earlier.

It is therefore wrong to think of Bukharin as an advocate for market socialism since his views changed during the evolution of the NEP and he shifted towards believing in a greater role for planning. Also, he believed that the market would decline and disappear as Communism approached.


One thing to keep in mind is that Bukharin was not able to see how the Communist experiment failed. He was a very inventive thinker, and he if could have seen the path that Communism was going to take he might of thought of a different way in which to apply Marx’s ideas to society, or he may have acted the way reformers are today. Although it cannot be argued that Bukharin economic reforms were precursors of Perestroika, it can be argued that his political reforms were. He had a strong sense of social justice and morals and was unwilling to sacrifice them for a higher cause, similar to the way social justice has been dealt with by some of the Soviet reformers during the collapse of Communism.


In 1937 Bukharin was arrested by Stalin on charges of Trotskyist activities and convicted during one of the Stalin purge trials. In February 1988, fifty years after Bukharin’s execution as a traitor, the verdict was reversed and his name cleared by the Soviet Supreme Court.





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