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 -
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-
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.
THE BASIC TASKS OF THE DICTATORSHIP OF THE
PROLETARIAT IN RUSSIA
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-
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-
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-
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-
(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-
(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-
(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 -
(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-
(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-
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-
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.)
(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-
(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-
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-
(5) In the sphere of distribution, the present task of Soviet power is to continue steadily replacing trade by the planned, organised and nation-
(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-
(7) In the sphere of finance, the R.C.P. will introduce a graduated income-
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-
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-
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-
The R.C.P. food policy upholds the consolidation and development of the state monopoly, and does not reject the use of co-