15. THE DICTATORSHIP OF THE PROLETARIAT

Printer-friendly versionSend by email The seizure of political power by the proletariat on a world scale, the precondition for and the first stage in the revolutionary transformation of capitalist society, means in the first place the total destruction of the apparatus of the bourgeois state.

Since it is through its state that the bourgeoisie maintains its domination over society, its privileges, its exploitation of other classes and of the working class in particular, this organ is necessarily adapted to this function and cannot be used by the working class which has no privileges or exploitation to defend. In other words, there is no ‘peaceful road to socialism’: against the violence of the minority of exploiters exerted openly or hypocritically, but in any case more and more systematically by the bourgeoisie, the proletariat can only put forward its own revolutionary class violence.

As the lever of economic transformation of society, the dictatorship of the proletariat (i.e. the exclusive exercise of political power by the working class) will have the fundamental task of expropriating the exploiting class by socialising the means of production and progressively extending this socialised sector to all productive activities. On the basis of its political power, the proletariat will have to attack the political economy of the bourgeoisie by carrying forward an economic policy leading to the abolition of wage labour and commodity production and to the satisfaction of the needs of humanity.

During this period of transition from capitalism to communism, non-exploiting strata other than the proletariat will still exist, classes whose existence is based on the non-socialised sector of the economy. For this reason the class struggle will still exist as a manifestation of the contradictory economic interests within society. This will give rise to a state whose function will be to prevent these conflicts leading to society tearing itself apart. But with the progressive disappearance of these social classes through the integration of their members into the socialised sector, and with the eventual abolition of classes, the state will itself have to disappear.

The historically discovered form of the dictatorship of the proletariat is that of the workers’ councils – unitary, centralised and class-wide assemblies based on elected and revocable delegates which enable the whole class to exercise power in a truly collective manner. These councils will have a monopoly of the control of arms as the guarantee of the exclusive political power of the working class.

It is the working class as a whole which alone can wield power in order to undertake the transformation of society. For this reason in contrast to previous revolutionary classes, the proletariat cannot delegate power to any institution or minority, including the revolutionary minority itself. The latter will act within the councils, but its organisation cannot substitute itself for the unitary organisations of the class in the achievement of its historic goals.

Similarly, the experience of the Russian revolution has shown the complexity and seriousness of the problem of the relationship between the class and the state in the period of transition. In the coming period, the proletariat and revolutionaries cannot evade this problem, but must make every effort to resolve it.

The dictatorship of the proletariat implies the absolute rejection of the notion that the working class should subordinate itself to any external force and also the rejection of any relations of violence within the class. During the period of transition, the proletariat is the only revolutionary class within society: its consciousness and its cohesion are the essential guarantees that its dictatorship will result in communism.