Tue Jul 23, 2024
July 23, 2024

88 Years Without Lenin: Dictatorship of Proletariat and “pure” democracy.

Class struggle involves periods of calm and periods of turbulence, periods of relative peace and periods of insurrection. Those who admit the principle of a division of society by social class and the struggle between them must admit that a civil war is something natural.

With this understanding Lenin declared:

“The dictatorship of proletariat is the continuity of class struggle under new forms”1

He went on to say,

“Socialism leads to the extinction of all state, and consequently all democracy; but socialism is not feasible except by means of dictatorship of the proletariat which joins the violence against the bourgeoisie, that is to say, against the minority of the population, with the integral development of democracy, that is to say, the authentically general participation of the entire mass of the population in equality of rights in all the state business and in all the complex problems that liquidation of capitalism implies… But apart from that, civil war against the bourgeoisie is a war that is organized and carried out democratically by the poor masses against a powerful minority. A civil war is also a war and consequently it must inevitably place violence in the place of lawfulness.2

This power, supported by people in arms, is not based on “law nor the formal will of a majority” but on violence as an instrument of power.

Bourgeois society needs parliament in order to better control the population. But it is formal democracy which is limited to voting every two or three years in order to choose ‘representatives’ of the people, who are so brutal that parliaments look like “caves of bandits” rather than an organization representing the people.

Opportunists (criticizing soviet power and the regime of the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat installed in Russia) defend bourgeois democracy against Russian “dictatorship”. Lenin responds, that the soviet power is a “substitution of the effective dictatorship of the bourgeoisie (a dictatorship hypocritically disguised as a democratic bourgeois republic) by the dictatorship of the proletariat. It will be the substitution of democracy for the rich by democracy for the poor.

It will be the substitution of the freedom of gathering and press for minority, for the exploiters, by the freedom of gathering and press for the majority of the population, for the workers. It will be a gigantic amplification, on a historic world range, of democracy, its conversion from a lie to the truth, the liberation of mankind from the chains of capitalism, that deforms and diminishes every bourgeois democracy, even the most ‘democratic’ and republican. It will be the substitution of the bourgeois state by a proletarian state, a substitution that is the only way to reach the absolute extinction of the state.” 3

In point of fact, never in the history of mankind has there been such participation of workers in political life, in the decisions of government, as what was seen in Russia 1917-1924. A genuine democracy of the poor who made up over 90% of the population. Stalinist terror had to murder millions of revolutionary militants in order to impose its brutal dictatorship and thus drown in sea of blood the vigorous workers’ democracy.

The reformist guidelines during the Russian revolution drove people to a standstill while they waited for the call for a Constituent Assembly which the bourgeoisie delayed. They were intent on using the soviets as support for a Constituent Assembly. The reformists spread constitutional illusions amongst the people to end the revolution and force workers to forego their class ‘weapons’. Lenin said that if the Bolsheviks shared this that they were ‘infamous traitors’.

Bolsheviks opposed the soviets to the Constituent and demanded that the latter acknowledge the power of the former, expropriated the landowners and provide peace. An additional clause called for an eight-hour work day. Most of the reformists were intractably opposed, and that is why the Constituent Assembly was dissolved by the soviet power.

Retrospectively, when drawing a balance sheet in 1918, Lenin said:

“We have been forced to dissipate the petty bourgeois illusion that people are a single entity and that people’s will can be expressed in anything that is not class struggle. We were absolutely right when we did not accept any compromise on this issue. Had we been indulgent with the petty bourgeois illusions, with the illusion of the Constituent Assembly, we would have wasted all the work of the proletarian revolution in Russia.” 4

Russia proved a positive solution for workers and peasants. Germany proved a negative experience where the Councils remained as parliamentary supervisors of the Constituent Assembly, in a situation where workers, soldiers and sailors were in complete control of the situation.

The German experience was opposite to that of Russia. In Germany an opportunist guideline prevailed and with the power of the Constituent Assembly the bourgeoisie won.

The German revolution began 3 November 1918 with an insurrection of the Navy which spread across the country. Councils (soviets) mushroomed everywhere. Consequently the monarchy fell. The provisional government consisted of right-wing social democrats and Kaustkyists (centrists). Their programme never went beyond social reforms. During I Congress of Councils of all Germany December 1918, reformist and ‘centrist’ leaders managed to pass a resolution on the delivery of legislative power over to the government and the achieved a Constituent Assembly. This meant a liquidation of the Councils.

The discussion on whether dictatorship of the proletariat or bourgeois democracy and soviets or Constituent Assembly was the central world-wide debate. Lenin said,

“Soviet power or bourgeois parliamentary power, whatever label it may have (National or Constituent Assembly) this is the how the issue is posed by the entire world history. Now it can and should be asserted and there is no fear of having exaggerated.” 5

He crowns the discussion saying,

“… to restrain ourselves to bourgeois parliamentarism, to restrain ourselves to bourgeois democracy, to paint this democracy pink, as ‘democracy in general’, to conceal its bourgeois character… means to betray the proletariat shamelessly, to walk over to the side of the class enemy, to be a traitor, a turncoat.” 6

The Bolshevik experience proves that the dictatorship of the proletariat is proletarian democracy, that is to say, socialist democracy.

{module Propaganda 30 anos}Today the USec have decided to remove from their programme any reference to the dictatorship of proletariat. Expressing the opinion of the LCR, a French section of the USec, Francois Olivier stated that 85% of Congress representatives voted to remove any mention of the dictatorship of the proletariat. He began with the tragic experience of the bureaucratisation of the USSR in the hands of Stalinism and he jumps to conclusions saying, “… it is impossible to present our conception of the power of the workers or socialist democracy as a regime of dictatorship of the proletariat… the word “dictatorship” is abhorred by us in the first place.”

The conclusion is astonishing, is a revolutionary unable to defend a strike because it may have been betrayed? Will he/she no longer work in a trade union because it may be led by bureaucrats? It is obvious that the term ‘dictatorship of proletariat’ as a class-war weapon is a burden for these intellectuals who are aliens of the working class, because they stroll along the halls and corridors of the European Parliament or the ministries in Brasilia.

Now they wear ‘new’ outfits.

“Our project? Self-governing socialism, unlimited democracy, the power of working women and working men, of the vast majority of the population against the dictatorship of the shareholder”. 7

“Self-governing” socialism is the demand of the anarchists, who oppose all power, including the proletarian power. That is why anarchists were the main enemies of Marxism in the XIX century, they confronted mainstay of Marxism which that is summed up in the dictatorship of the proletariat. Anarchism, under the cloak of a negation of politics, always leads to the subordination of the working class to bourgeois policy. History proved that anarchism when confronted with the issue of power could not say “No, thanks, I don’t smoke” but became ministers of a bourgeois cabinet as in Spain in 1936. The move by the USec is a swerve by European intelligentsia which has capitulated to the anti-party and anti-power sentiments that have spread across bourgeois ‘public opinion’. This bourgeois idea removes the limits of ‘democracy’ and so removes its class character. It is precisely here where the reformists are presenting an old and rotten bourgeois democracy as a democracy for all. So what does the USec do? They remove the class contents (bourgeois) of democracy (real and existing) and radicalise verbally using the adjective ‘unlimited’. All this amounts to is a pirouette which allows them to keep wearing the masque ‘extreme left’.

Whoever forsakes proletariat dictatorship forsakes socialism because the only way to reach socialism is through a period proletariat dictatorship to ensure the annihilation of domination by the exploiters, this is the practical lesson of the Russian revolution.

The USec forsakes the principles of revolutionary Marxism. “The principles of communism consist of the establishment of proletariat dictatorship and in the employment of the exertion by the state during the transitional period.” 8

The alleged defence of ‘democracy as a universal value’ becomes the defence of bourgeois democracy, which is the dictatorship of capital.

When Lula’s ‘Trotskyist’ minister, Miguel Rossero, was asked his opinion on occupation of large estates by the landless he said, “They have autonomy. It is part of the democratic milieu to respect movements, trade union activities, even if we do not agree with them.

It is part of the political maturity of the country. Obviously, all the actions that move beyond those democratic boundaries will be treated within the law, which will be complied with entirely.” 9

Brazil (and its minister Celso Amorim) was congratulated by Colin Powell for sending troops to Haiti to centralise the UNO forces and secure ‘peace’. The same minister, known as ‘left’, said that while the crisis caused by the ‘violence’ of the resistance in the country continued the USA could not withdraw troops from Iraq. This is proof that with imperialism, the defence of ‘democracy’ leads to the defence of the status quo and the ruling imperialist system.

The USec prepares arguments to unite the theory of the soviet system and bourgeois democracy, just as their Kaustskyist grandfathers did when they said in the above quoted text by Olivier, supposedly standing for the Paris Commune with the following phrase: “The Commune was an attempt to combine direct democracy and universal suffrage.”

New generations must learn from history to expose these ‘Trotskyist’ rogues who are preparing to tackle the impending revolution.  And if they cannot stop it they will attempt to behead it with the sword of ‘democracy’ and carry it out with a air of reformists, a legion of officials who have been bought by the bourgeoisie.

The USec position today represents a desertion of Leninism and Trotskyism and also of revolutionary Marxism. Because proletariat dictatorship is the core of all revolutionary Marxist structures and is the pillar on which the whole edifice stands.

“The fundamental issue of Marx’s doctrine is class struggle. This has been said and written quite often. But it is not accurate. Out of this inaccuracy, an opportunist adulteration of Marxism beams out, a falsification that is acceptable for the bourgeoisie. Because the theory of class struggle hasnot been created by Marx, but by the bourgeoisie before Marx, and is in general terms acceptable… Only those who make the class struggle extensive to proletariat dictatorship are Marxists… It is at this keystone that the real comprehension and recognition of real Marxism is to be contrasted.”10

Olivier leans on ‘errors’ of Leninism for support, such as the limitation of democratic liberties inside the party and the soviets, in order to attack the proletariat dictatorship. They refuse to understand that the amplitude of the proletarian democracy depends on the concrete situation. If it is isolated and besieged by imperialism in an only one workers’ state, a restricted degree of democracy is allowed; on the other hand, if there are many workers’ states in the world, particularly in advanced countries, and it is besieging imperialism elsewhere then it will be more extensive.

Where a woman lives alone with her children in a dangerous are where surrounded by ‘criminals’, drug dealers, corrupt police etc then she cannot afford not to condone ‘democracy’. However intellectuals who know the history of mankind refuse to understand because they want to climb onto the crest of a wave of the current ‘fashion’, ‘unlimited democracy’.

The attitude towards bourgeois democracy and its relation with the embryos of worker’s power are valid today. For example, a considerable part of the Latin American left approaches revolutions not with a programme of workers’ power, but using a ‘democratic’ programme such as forestalling elections or calling for a Constituent Assembly without workers’ power.

These leaders fail to understand that the dynamics of class struggle will sooner or later push the issue of either working class power or bourgeois power on to the agenda through democracy. There was no compromising when the PT of Brazil moved towards bourgeois power as they changed their programme and embraced the theory of democracy as a ‘universal’ value. With this demand the PT changed and prepared for office. Once in office it became bourgeois and pro-imperialist because as ‘democracy’ has a bourgeois character in the imperialist epoch this can only be expressed as imperialist ‘democracy’, totally subordinate to the totalitarian domination of the monopolies. Even Third World democracy is becoming increasingly similar to colonial ‘democracy’.


1 Lenin CW tome 39, page 271

2 Lenin CW tome 30, page 76

3 Lenin CW tome 37, page 402

4 Lenin CW tome 37, page 221

5 Lenin CW tome 37, page 471

6 Lenin CW tome 37, page 472

7 Periodical Rouge 2040

8 Lenin, CW tome 44, page 23

9 O estado de Sao Paulo, 10/04/2004

10 Lenin, CW tome 38, page 81

Check out our other content

Check out other tags:

Most Popular Articles