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The Necessity of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat

Updated on June 6, 2012

The dictatorship of the proletariat is the most democratic of all class societies. Under bourgeois democracy, the political system is perfectly adapted to the rule of the bourgeoisie. Not only this but so too are social values. Therefore, ‘democracy’ within capitalism necessitates the continuation of capitalism, it means that whatever government is elected will only manage and reform the bourgeois state. Consequently, we have the rule of the exploiting minority against the exploited majority.

“the dictatorship of the proletariat cannot be exercised through an organisation embracing the whole of that class, because in all capitalist countries the proletariat is still so divided, so degraded, and so corrupted in parts that an organisation taking in the whole proletariat cannot directly exercise proletarian dictatorship. It can be exercised only by a vanguard that has absorbed the revolutionary energy of the class.” - Lenin

It should be clear then, that the dictatorship of the proletariat is inextricably bound to violent revolution.

A Foundation of Socialism

Can radical social transformation without violent revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat? On this Stalin tells us

“Obviously not. To think that such a revolution can be carried out peacefully within the framework of bourgeois democracy which is adapted to the rule of the bourgeoisie means that one has either gone out of one’s mind and lost normal human understanding, or has grossly and openly repudiated the proletarian revolution.”

Lenin, following on from Marx, correctly taught that social democracy serves the bourgeoisie. These “socialists” tell us that despite the economic, political and military rule of the bourgeoisie, as well as a social system perfectly adapted to this rule, a majority of the population may somehow “express themselves in favour of the party of the proletariat, that only then can and should the party take power”. These are socialists in name but “are in reality the servitors of the bourgeoisie”. The only logical solution is expressed by Lenin when he says

“ Let the revolutionary proletariat first overthrow the bourgeoisie, break the yoke of capital, and smash the bourgeois state apparatus, then the victorious proletariat will be able rapidly to gain the sympathy and support of the majority”

Furthermore, the so-called “socialists” ignore that all political states are instruments of class oppression. On this Lenin says

“The state is a product and a manifestation of the irreconcilability of class antagonisms. The state arises where, when and insofar as class antagonisms objectively cannot be reconciled. And, conversely, the existence of the state proves that the class antagonisms are irreconcilable.”

Parliamentary socialism then reveals itself as no socialism at all. Attempts to wield the power of the bourgeois state in the interests of the proletariat reveals itself as a logical contradiction. This position is most clearly formulated in the State and Revolution

“what is overlooked or glossed over is this: if the state is the product of the irreconcilability of class antagonisms, if it is a power standing above society and “alienating itself more and more from it", it is clear that the liberation of the oppressed class is impossible not only without a violent revolution, but also without the destruction of the apparatus of state power which was created by the ruling class and which is the embodiment of this alienation.”

So the social democratic strategy cannot be enacted. It cannot bring a social transformation. It cannot wield power in the general interest of the proletariat. The best it can do is make peripheral reforms which are acceptable to the dominant class. Furthermore, even these peripheral reforms are eaten away at. In today’s climate this should be acutely visible to the Working Class of Europe as the might of the multi-national bourgeois quasi-state; the EU is turned to the imposition of austerity. This austerity though is not austerity for all. Prior peripheral social gains of the proletariat are lost while tax loops for the bourgeoisie remain. The oppressive and class essence of the state should be clear for all to see. Consequently, the crux of Leninism is reinforced. The liberation of the proletariat, by necessity requires “the destruction of the apparatus of state power which was created by the ruling class and which is the embodiment of this alienation.”

Only then will genuine democratic advances have been made. For only then will we have the rule of the exploited majority against the exploiting minority. Only then will a state which serves the majority exist. Only then comrades, only then.

Sources and further reading -

J. Stalin, Problems of Leninism

V.I Lenin, the State and Revolution

V.I Lenin, the Trade Unions, the Present Situation and Trotsky's Mistakes


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