The purpose of this site it to explain the general scientific outlook of Marxism, dialectical materialism, in the form in which it must concretely exist in the present - the theory  of world social revolution


Democracy and Dictatorship


   All the revolutions which have occurred since the seventeenth century have involved what Marx referred to as the battle for democracy. In any class divided society the dominant, ruling class uses its monopoly of the property relations and social wealth, the means of production, to exercise political power over the exploited class. The relation between classes thus takes the form of the dictatorship of the ruling class. However, in order to act in a unified, cohesive way, the ruling class has need of a system of democratic relations within its own self. Clearly, the ruling class cannot extend this democratic system to the exploited class, as this would empower it to overturn the property relations upon which their power rests. Thus the Parliamentary democracies of modern times are actually capitalist dictatorships over the working class, the proletariat.

   The struggle of the exploited class for its emancipation, therefore, is necessarily revolutionary. But the revolutionary class has need of its own internal democracy to conduct its revolutionary struggle in a unified and cohesive way, and having won political power through the transformation of the property relations, to exercise its dictatorship over the old ruling class.    History, we know, is the record of the struggle between classes. As a historical process, therefore, democracy and dictatorship always exist in unity and conflict, self-related opposites which are continually transformed in to each other by way of the dialectical laws of motion of human society.

   The common conception of democracy as something which stands above class divided society as being common to both classes is thoroughly false. The battle of each class to establish its own internal democracy as a means of exercising dictatorship over the other is the battle for democracy.

    The text below is an extract from the Draft Programme of the Russian Communist Party (Bolshevik), written by Lenin, which was presented to the Eighth Party Congress in March 1919. It begins with a concrete exposition of the battle for democracy at that moment of history, and goes on to set out the practical application of the dictatorship of the proletariat once the battle for democracy had been won through the October Revolution and Soviet power was established. The text is taken from the Collected Works of Lenin, Progress Publishers Moscow, Volume 29, page 105.




   In Russia today the basic tasks of the dictatorship of the proletariat are to carry through to the end, to complete, the expropriation of the landowners and bourgeoisie that has already begun, and the transfer of all factories, railways, banks, the merchant fleet and other means of production and exchange to ownership by the Soviet Republic;

   to employ the alliance of urban workers and poor peasants, which has already led to the abolition of private ownership of land, and the law of the transitional form between small-peasant farming and socialism, which modern ideologists of the peasantry that has put itself on the side of the proletarians have called socialisation of the land, for a gradual but steady transition to joint tillage and large-scale socialist agriculture;

   to strengthen and further develop the Federative Republic of Soviets as an immeasurably higher and more progressive form of democracy than bourgeois parliamentarism, and as the sole type of state corresponding, on the basis of the experience of the Paris Commune of 1871 and equally of the experience of the Russian Revolution of 1905 and 1917-18, to the transitional period between capitalism and socialism, i.e., to the period of the dictatorship of the proletariat;

   by employing in every way the torch of world socialist revolution lit in Russia to paralyse the attempts of imperialist bourgeois states to intervene in the internal affairs of Russia or to unite for direct struggle and war against the socialist Soviet Republic and to carry the revolution into the most advanced countries and in general into all countries; by a number of gradual but undeviating measures to abolish private trading completely and to organise the regular, planned exchange of products between producers’ and consumers’ communes to form the single economic entity the Soviet Republic must become.

   The Russian Communist Party, developing the general tasks of the Soviet Government in greater detail, at present formulates them as follows:

In the Political Sphere

   Prior to the capture of political power by the proletariat it was (obligatory) necessary to make use of bourgeois democracy, parliamentarism in particular, for the political education and organisation of the working masses; now that the proletariat has won political power and a higher type of democracy is being put into effect in the Soviet Republic, any step backward to bourgeois parliamentarism and bourgeois democracy would undoubtedly be reactionary service to the interests of the exploiters, the landowners and capitalists. Such catchwords as supposedly popular, national, general, extra-class but actually bourgeois democracy serve the interests of the exploiters alone, and as long as the land and other means of production remain private property the most democratic republic must inevitably remain a bourgeois dictatorship, a machine for the suppression of the overwhelming majority of the working people by a handful of capitalists.

   The historic task that has fallen to the lot of the Soviet Republic, a new type of state that is transitional until the state disappears altogether, is the following.

   (1) The creation and development of universal mass organisations of precisely those classes that are oppressed under capitalism – the proletariat and semi-proletariat. A bourgeois-democratic republic at best permits the organisation of the exploited classes, by declaring them free to organise, but actually has always placed countless obstacles in the way of their organisation, obstacles that were connected with private ownership of the means of production in a way that made them irremovable. For the first time in history, Soviet power has not only greatly facilitated the organisation of the masses who were oppressed under capitalism, but has made that organisation the essential permanent basis of the entire state apparatus, local and  central, from top to bottom. Only in this way is it possible to ensure democracy for the great majority of the population (the working people), i.e., actual participation in state administration, in contrast to the actual administration of the state mainly by members of the bourgeois classes as is the case in the most democratic bourgeois republics.

   (2) The Soviet system of state administration gives a certain actual advantage to that section of the working people that all the capitalist development that has preceded socialism has made the most concentrated, united, educated and steeled in the struggle, i.e., to the urban industrial proletariat. This advantage must be used systematically and unswervingly to counteract the narrow guild and narrow trade interests that capitalism has fostered among the workers and which split them into competitive groups, by uniting the most backward and disunited masses of rural proletarians and semi-proletarians more closely with the advanced workers, by snatching them away from the influence of the village kulaks and village bourgeoisie, and organising and educating them for communist development.

   (3) Bourgeois democracy that solemnly announces the equality of all citizens, in actual fact hypocritically concealed the domination of the capitalist exploiters and deceived the masses with the idea that the equality of exploiters and exploited is possible. The Soviet organisation of the state destroys this deception and this hypocrisy by the implementation of real democracy, i.e., the real equality of all working people, and by excluding the exploiters from the category of members of society possessing full rights. The experience of world history, the experience of all revolts of the exploited masses against their exploiters shows the inevitability of long and desperate resistance of the exploiters in their struggle to retain their privileges. Soviet state organisation is adapted to the suppression of that resistance, for unless it is suppressed there can be no question of a victorious communist revolution.

   (4) The more direct influence of the working masses on state structure and administration – i.e., a higher form of democracy – is also effected under the Soviet type of state, first, by the electoral procedure and the possibility of holding elections more frequently, and also by conditions for re-election and for re-call of deputies which are simpler and more comprehensible to the urban and rural workers that is the case under the best forms of bourgeois democracy:

   (5) secondly, by making the economic, industrial unit (factory) and not a territorial division the primary electoral unit and the nucleus of the state structure under Soviet power. This closer contact between the state apparatus and the masses of advanced proletarians that capitalism has united, in addition to effecting a higher level of democracy, also makes it possible to effect profound socialist reforms.

   (6) Soviet organisation has made possible the creation of armed forces of workers and peasants which are much more closely connected with the working and exploited people that before. If this had not been done it would have been impossible to achieve one of the basic conditions for the victory of socialism - the arming of the workers and the disarming of the bourgeoisie.

   (7) Soviet organisation has developed incomparably farther and deeper that feature of bourgeois democracy which marks historically its greatest progressive nature as compared with medieval times, i.e., the participation of the people in the election of individuals to office. In none of the most democratic bourgeois states have the working masses ever been able to enjoy the electoral rights granted them by the bourgeoisie (who actually hinder their enjoyment) anywhere near as extensively, frequently, universally, easily and simply as they are enjoyed under Soviet power. Soviet power has, at the same time, swept away those negative aspects of bourgeois democracy that the Paris Commune began to abolish, i.e., parliamentarism, or the separation of legislative and executive powers, the narrow, limited nature of which Marxism has long ago indicated. By merging the two aspects of government the Soviets bring the state apparatus closer to the working people and remove the fence of the bourgeois parliament that fooled the masses with hypocritical signboards concealing the financial and stock-exchange deals of parliamentary businessmen and ensured the inviolability of the bourgeois apparatus of state administration.

   (8) The Soviet state organisation alone has enabled the proletarian revolution to smash the old bourgeois state apparatus at one blow and destroy it to the very foundations; had this not been done no start could have been made on socialist development. Those strongholds of the bureaucracy which everywhere, both under monarchies and in the most democratic bourgeois republics, has always kept the state bound to the interests of the landowners and capitalists, have been destroyed in present day Russia. The struggle against the bureaucracy, however, is certainly not over in our country. The bureaucracy is trying to regain some of its positions and is taking advantage, on the one hand, of the unsatisfactory cultural level of the masses of the people and, on the other, of the tremendous, almost superhuman war efforts of the most developed section of the urban workers. The continuation of the struggle against the bureaucracy, therefore, is absolutely necessary, is imperative, to ensure the success of future socialist development.

   (9) Work in this field is closely connected with the implementation of the chief historical purpose of Soviet power, i.e., to advance toward the final abolition of the state, and should consist of the following. First, every member of a Soviet must, without fail, do a certain job of state administration; secondly, these jobs must be consistently changed so that they embrace all aspects of government, all its branches; and, thirdly, literally all the working population must be drawn into independent participation in state administration by means of a series of gradual measures that are carefully selected and unfailingly implemented.

   (10)   By and large, the difference between bourgeois democracy and parliamentarism on the one hand, and Soviet or proletarian democracy on the other, boils down to this: the centre of gravity of the former is in its solemn and pompous declarations of numerous liberties and rights which the majority of the population, the workers and peasants, cannot enjoy to the full. Proletarian, or Soviet, democracy, on the contrary, has transferred the centre of gravity away from the declaration of rights and liberties for the entire people to the actual participation of none but the working people, who were oppressed and exploited by capital, in the administration of the state, the actual use of the best buildings and other premises for meetings and congresses, the best printing works and the biggest warehouses (stocks) of paper for the education of those who were stultified and downtrodden under capitalism, and to providing a real (actual) opportunity for those masses gradually to free themselves from the burden of religious prejudices, etc., etc. It is precisely in making the benefits of culture, civilisation and democracy really available to the working and exploited people that Soviet power sees its most important work, work which it must continue unswervingly in the future.

   The policy of the R.C.P. on the national question, unlike the bourgeois-democratic declaration of the equality of nations, which cannot be implemented under imperialism, is that of steadily drawing together and merging the proletarians and the working masses of all nations in their revolutionary struggle for the overthrow of the bourgeoisie. Among the working people of the nations that entered into the Russian empire the mistrust of the Great Russians that has been inherited from the epoch of tzarist and bourgeois Great-Russian imperialism is rapidly vanishing, under the influence of their acquaintance with Soviet Russia, but that mistrust has not yet completely disappeared among all nations and among all sections of the working people. It is, therefore, necessary to exercise special caution in respect of national feelings and to ensure the pursuance of a policy of actual equality and freedom to secede so as to remove the grounds for this mistrust and achieve the close voluntary union of the Soviet republics of all nations. Aid to backward and weak nations must be increased by assisting in the development of the language and literature of nations that have been oppressed or have been underprivileged.

   In respect of the policy on religion the task of the (R.C.P.) dictatorship of the proletariat must not be confined to decreeing the separation of church from the state and the school from the church, that is, to measures promised by bourgeois democrats but never fully carried out anywhere in the world because of the many and varied connections actually existing between capital and religious propaganda. The proletarian dictatorship must completely destroy the connection between the exploiting classes – the landowners and capitalists – and the organisation of religious propaganda as something which keeps the masses in ignorance. The proletarian dictatorship must consistently effect the real emancipation of the working people from religious prejudices, doing so by means of propaganda and by raising the political consciousness of the masses but carefully avoiding anything that may hurt the feelings of the religious section of the population and serve to increase religious fanaticism.   

   In the sphere of public education, the object of the R.C.P. is to complete the work that began with the October Revolution in 1917 to convert the school from an instrument of the class rule of the bourgeoisie into an instrument for the overthrow of that rule and for the complete abolition  of the division of society into classes.

   In the period of the dictatorship of the proletariat, i.e., in the period in which conditions are being prepared for the full realisation of communism, the school must be the vehicle, not merely of the general principles of communism but also the ideological, organisational and educational influence of the proletariat on the semi-proletarian and non- proletarian sections of the working people, in order to train a generation that is fully capable of building communism.

   The immediate tasks in this field are, for the present, the following:

   (1) The implementation of free, obligatory general and polytechnical education (acquaintance with all the main branches of production theoretically and it practice) for all children of both sexes up to the age of 16.

   (2) The closest connection between schooling and productive social labour.

   (3) The provision of food, clothing, books and other teaching aids for all school children at the expense of the state.

   (4) Greater agitation and propaganda among school teachers.

   (5) The training of new teaching staffs imbued with communist ideas.

   (6) The working people must be drawn into active participation in the work of education (the development of the public education councils, mobilisation of the educated, etc.)

   (7) All-round help on the part of Soviet power in the matter of self-education and self-development of workers and working peasants (organisation of libraries, schools for adults, peoples universities, courses of lectures, cinemas, studies etc.)

   (8) Development of the most extensive propaganda of communist ideas.

   The Russian Communist Party, developing the general tasks of the Soviet Government in greater detail, at present formulates them as follows.

In the Economic Sphere

   The present tasks of the Soviet Power are:

   (1) To continue steadily and finish the expropriation of the bourgeoisie and the conversion of the means of production and distribution into the property of the Soviet Republic, i.e., into the common property of all working people, which has in the main been completed.

   (2 To pay particularly great attention to the development and strengthening of comradely discipline among the working people and to stimulate their initiative and sense of responsibility in every field. This is the most important if not the sole means of completely overcoming capitalism and the habits formed by the rule of the private ownership of the means of production. This aim can be achieved only by slow, persistent work to re-educate the masses; this re-education has not only become possible now that the masses have seen that the landowner, capitalist and merchant have really been eliminated, but is actually taking place in thousands of ways through the practical experience of the workers and peasants themselves. It is extremely important in this respect to work for the further organisation of the working people in trade unions; never before has this organisation developed so rapidly anywhere in the world as under Soviet power, and it must be developed until literally all working people are organised  in properly constituted, centralised and disciplined trade unions. We must not confine ourselves to the old, stereotyped forms of the trade union movement, but must, on the one hand, systematically convert the trade unions into organs of administering the economy, carefully checking every step we take against the results of practical work; there must be greater and stronger bonds between the trade unions and the Supreme Economic Council, the Commissariat of Labour and, later, with all other branches of the state administration; on the other hand, the trade unions must to a greater degree become organs for the labour and socialist education of the working masses as a whole so that the practical experience of participation in the administration spreads to the more backward sections of workers, under the control of the vanguard of the workers.

   (3) One of the basic tasks is to raise the level of labour productivity, for without this the full transition to communism is impossible. In addition to lengthy work to educate the masses and raise their cultural level, the achievement of this goal requires the immediate, extensive and comprehensive employment in science and technology of those specialists who have been left us as our heritage from capitalism and, as a rule, are imbued with the bourgeois world outlook and habits. The Party, in close alliance with the trade union organisations, must continue its former line – on the one hand, there must not be the slightest political concession to this bourgeois section of the population, and any counter-revolutionary attempts on its part must be ruthlessly suppressed, and, on the other hand, there must be a relentless struggle against the pseudo-radical but actually ignorant and conceited opinion that the working people are capable of overcoming capitalism and the bourgeois social system without learning from bourgeois specialists, without making use of their services and without undergoing the training of a lengthy period of work side by side with them.

   Although our ultimate aim is to achieve full communism and equal remuneration for all kinds of work, we cannot introduce this equality straight away, at the present time, when only the first steps of the transition from capitalism to communism are being taken. For a certain period of time, therefore, we must retain the present higher remuneration for specialists in order to give them an incentive to work no worse, and even better, than they have worked before; and with the same object in view we must not reject the system of paying bonuses for the most successful work, particularly organisational work; bonuses would be impermissible under a full communist system but in the period of transition from capitalism to communism bonuses are indispensable, as is borne out by theory and by a year’s experience of Soviet power.

   We must, furthermore, work consistently to surround the bourgeois specialists with a comradely atmosphere created by working hand in hand with the masses of rank and file workers led by politically conscious communists; we must not be dismayed by the inevitable individual failures but must strive patiently to arouse in people possessing scientific knowledge a consciousness of how loathsome it is to use science for personal enrichment and for the exploitation of man by man, a consciousness of the more lofty aim of using science for the purpose of making it known to the working people

   (4) The building of communism undoubtedly requires the greatest possible and most strict centralisation of labour on a nationwide scale. And this presumes overcoming the scattering and disunity of workers, by trades and locally, which was one of the sources of capital’s strength and labour’s weakness. The struggle against the narrowness and limitations of the guild and against its egoism is closely connected with the struggle to remove the antitheses between town and country. It presents great difficulties and cannot be begun on a broad scale without first achieving a considerable increase in the productivity of the people’s labour. A start on this must, however, be made immediately, if at first only on a small, local scale and by way of experiment for the purpose of comparing the results of various measures undertaken in different trades and in different places. The mobilisation of the entire able-bodied population by the Soviet government, with the trade unions participating, for certain public works must be much more widely and systematically practiced than has hitherto been the case.

   (5) In the sphere of distribution, the present task of Soviet power is to continue steadily replacing trade by the planned, organised and nation-wide distribution of goods. The goal is the organisation of the entire population in producers’ and consumers’ communes that can distribute all essential products most rapidly, systematically, economically, and with the least expenditure of labour by strictly centralising the entire distribution machinery. The co-operatives are a transitional means of oachieving this aim. The use of them is similar to the use of bourgeois specialists insofar as the co-operative machinery we have inherited from capitalism is in the hands of people whose thinking and business habits are bourgeois. The R.C.P. must systematically pursue the policy of making it obligatory for all members of the Party to work in the co-operatives and, with the aid of the trade unions, direct them in a communist spirit, develop the initiative and discipline of the working people who belong to them, endeavour to get the entire population to join them, and the co-operatives themselves to merge into one single co-operative that embraces the whole of the Soviet Republic. Lastly, and most important, the dominating influence of the proletariat over the rest of the working people must be constantly maintained, and everywhere the most varied measures must be tried with a view to facilitating and bringing about the transition from petty-bourgeois co-operatives of the old capitalist type to producers’ and consumers’ communes led by proletarians and semi-proletarians.

   (6) It is impossible to abolish money at one stroke in the first period of transition from capitalism to communism. As a consequence the bourgeois elements of the population continue to use privately-owned currency notes – those tokens by which the exploiters obtain the right to receive public wealth – for the purpose of speculation, profit making and robbing the working population. The nationalisation of the banks is insufficient in itself to combat this survival of bourgeois robbery. The R.C.P. will strive as speedily as possible to introduce the most radical measures to pave the way for the abolition of money, first and foremost to replace it by savings-bank books, cheques, short-term notes entitling holders to receive goods from the public stores, and so forth, to make it compulsory for money to be deposited in the banks, etc. Practical experience in paving the way for, and carrying out, these and similar measures will show which of them are the most expedient.

   (7)  In the sphere of finance, the R.C.P. will introduce a graduated income-and-property tax in all cases where it is feasible. But these cases cannot be numerous since private property in land, the majority of factories and other enterprises has been abolished. In the epoch of the dictatorship of the proletariat and of the state ownership of the principle means of production, the state finances must be based on the direct appropriation of a certain part of the revenue from the different state monopolies to meet the needs of the state. Revenue and expenditure can be balanced only if the exchange of commodities is directly organised, and this will be achieved by the organisation of producers’ and consumers’ communes and the restoration of the transport system, which is one of the major immediate objects of the Soviet government.

In the Sphere of Agriculture.

   After the abolition of private property in land and the [almost] compete expropriation of the landowners and the promulgation of the law on the socialisation of the land which regards as preferable the large-scale farming of commonly-owned estates, the chief task of Soviet Power is to discover and test in practice the most expedient and practical transitional measures to effect this.

   The main line and the guiding principle of the R.C.P. agrarian policy under these circumstances still remains the effort to rely on the proletarian and semi-proletarian elements of the countryside. They must first and foremost be organised into an independent force, they must be brought closer to the urban proletariat and wrested from the influence of the rural bourgeoisie and petty-property interests. The organisation of Poor Peasants Committees was one step in this direction; the organisation of Party cells in the villages, the re-election of Soviet deputies to exclude the kulaks, the establishment of special types of trade unions for the proletarians and semi-proletarians of the countryside – all these and similar measures must be effected without fail.

   As far as the kulaks, the rural bourgeoisie, are concerned, the policy of the R.C.P. is one of decisive struggle against their attempts at exploitation and the suppression of their resistance to Soviet socialist policy.

   As far as the middle peasant is concerned, the policy of the R.C.P. is one of a cautious attitude towards him; he must not be confused with the kulak and coercive measures must not be used against him; by his class position the middle peasant can be the ally of the proletarian government during the transition to socialism, or, at least, he can remain a neutral element. Despite the unavoidable partial failures and waverings of the middle peasant, therefore, we must strive persistently to reach agreement with him, showing a solicitous attitude to all his desires and making concessions in selecting ways of carrying out socialist reforms. In this respect a prominent place must be given to the struggle against the abuses of those representatives of Soviet power who, hypocritically taking advantage of the title Communist, are carrying out a policy that is not communist but a policy of the bureaucracy, of officialdom; such people must be ruthlessly banished and a stricter control established with the aid of the trade unions and by other means.

   Insofar as concerns measures for the transition to communist farming, the R.C.P. will test in practice three principle measures that have already taken shape – state farms, agricultural communes and societies (and co-operatives) for the collective tilling of the soil, care being taken to ensure their more extensive and more correct application, especially in respect of ways of developing the voluntary participation of the peasants in these new forms of co-operative farming, and of the organisation of the working peasantry to carry out control from below and ensure comradely discipline.

   The R.C.P. food policy upholds the consolidation and development of the state monopoly, and does not reject the use of co-operatives and private traders or the employees of trading firms, or the application of a system of bonuses, on the condition that it is controlled by Soviet power and serves the purpose of the better organisation of the business. The practical concessions that have to be made from time to time are only due to the extreme acuteness of need and never imply a refusal to strive persistently to implement the state monopoly. It is very difficult to implement it in a country of small peasant farms, it requires lengthy work and the practical testing of a number of transitional measures that lead to the goal in various ways, i.e., that lead to the universal organisation and correct functioning of producers’ and consumers’ communes that hand over all food surpluses to the state.