Dictatorship of the proletariat

15. THE DICTATORSHIP OF THE PROLETARIAT

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.

In the aftermath of World War Two: debates on how the workers will hold power after the revolution

In the continuing series on the nature of communism, we are publishing the "Theses on the nature of the state and the proletarian revolution" written by the French Communist Left in the aftermath of World War II, with a brief introduction to put the Theses into the historical context of the positions of Bordiga and Pannekoek on the subject.

What are workers' councils? (Part 4): The soviets attempt to wield power (1917 - 1921)

In previous articles in this series, we followed the appearance of the workers’ councils (i.e. soviets in Russian) during the revolution of 1905; their disappearance and resurgence during the revolution of 1917, and their crisis and revival in the hands of the workers which led to their seizure of power in October 1917.[1] In this article we will deal with the attempt by the soviets to wield power, a fundamental moment in the history of mankind

What are workers' councils? (Part 2): The resurgence and crisis of workers’ councils in 1917

In this second part, we are going to see how they reappeared during the February 1917 revolution and how, under the domination of the old Menshevik and Social Revolutionary (SR) parties who betrayed the working class, they distanced themselves from the will and growing consciousness of the worker masses, becoming, in July 1917, a point of support for the counter-revolution.

What are workers' councils? (Part 1): Why did workers' councils emerge in 1905?

On March 2nd 1919, at the inaugural session of the First Congress of the Communist International, Lenin argued that the "Soviet system" (that's Russian for workers' councils) having previously been "a Latin phrase" to the great mass of workers, had entered into everyday language in many countries and, above all, was a more common form of struggle for workers...

Communism Vol. 3, Part 6 - The problems of the period of transition (II)

In this issue of the International Review we are re-publishing the second article in the series “Problems of the Period of transition” by Mitchell, published in Bilan n° 31, in May-June 1936. Having laid out the general historical conditions of the proletarian revolution in the first article in the series, Mitchell traces the evolution of the marxist theory of the state, linking it closely to the most important moments in the struggle of the working class against capitalism – 1848, the Paris Commune, and the Russian revolution.

Communism Vol. 3, Part 5 - The problems of the period of transition (I)

In the previous article in this series (International Review n127, “The 1930s: debate on the period of transition”) we began a study of the efforts of the Italian communist left to draw the lessons of the first international wave of proletarian revolutions and of the revolution in Russia in particular, and to understand how these lessons could be applied to the revolutionary transformations of the future... In this issue, we begin the publication of another major series on the same basic theme: “Problems of the period of transition” written by Mitchell, who at the time the series began was a member of the Belgian group the Ligue des Communistes Internationalistes but who subsequently helped to found the Belgian Fraction of the Communist Left, which split from the LCI on the question of the war in Spain, and with the Italian Fraction formed the International Communist Left. To our knowledge this is the first time this series has been published since the1930s and the first time it has been translated into other languages.

Introduction

Introduction (1981) 

The state and slavery are inseparable.” (Marx, The German Ideology)

What are we fighting for? What is the mean­ing of socialism? What happens the day after the revolution? How do we prevent the revolution from degenerating into totalitarianism as it did in Russia? Revolutionaries and all workers in struggle have to face these questions. Although there are no simple, fool­proof answers, there are the guidelines offered by marxist theory based on the study of the history of the class struggle.

The Proletarian Revolution

The Specific Nature of the Proletarian Revolution

The urgent necessity for communists to fight for maximum clarity and coherence concerning the revolutionary tasks of the proletariat derives from the unique nature of the proletarian revolution. Whereas the bourgeois revolution (England, France etc.) was fundamentally a political confirmation of the bourgeoisie's economic domination of society, which grew steadily and progressively out of declining feudal society, the proletariat has no economic power under capitalism, and in the period of capitalist decadence has no permanent organisations of its own. The only weapons available to the proletariat are its class consciousness and its ability to organise its own revolutionary activity; having wrested power from the bourgeoisie it has the immense task of consciously constructing a new social order.

Problems of the period of transition

It is always with the greatest caution that revolutionaries have raised the question of the period of transition. The number, the complex­ity, and above all, the newness of the problems the proletariat must solve prevent any elabora­tion of detailed plans of the future society; any attempt to do so risks being turned into a strait-jacket which will stifle the revo­lutionary activity of the class. Marx, for example, always refused to give "recipes for the dishes of the future". Rosa Luxemburg insisted on the fact that with respect to the transi­tional society we only have "sign posts and those of an essentially negative character".

Understanding Kronstadt

Eighty years ago in March 1921, four years after the successful seizure of power by the working class in the October Revolution in Russia in 1917, the Bolshevik Party forcibly suppressed an insurrection at the Kronstadt garri­son of the Baltic Fleet on the small island of Kotlin in the Gulf of Finland 30 kilometres from Petrograd.

Correspondance from Russia

Following the collapse of the USSR, various individuals and small groups have emerged within Russia since 1990 to question the world bourgeoisie's lying equation that Stalinism equalled communism.

Lenin's Theses on bourgeois democracy and proletarian dictatorship (reprint)

The 20th century has drawn to a close to the sound of a vast concert celebrating the advance of democracy all over the world, and its supposed benefits. Throughout the century, its victories are celebrated over dictatorships both red and brown, and its heroes - Gandhi, Walesa, Mandela, Martin Luther King et.al. - are fêted for the application of its "great and generous principles". If we are to believe the propaganda, the situation since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the struggles which have taken place since to defend and develop democracy are cause for hope in a future of peace and harmony which should be thoroughly encouraging for mankind as a whole. We have been treated to regular crusades by the great democracies, to impose and defend "human rights" in countries which did not respect them, by force if necessary - in other words at the cost of the most barbaric massacres. We have been offered the sight of an International Court of Justice, set up to judge and punish those found guilty of "crimes against humanity". Let the dictators tremble! And for the years to come, we are promised the emergence of a "world-wide democracy" based on a "growing role for civil society". The recent demonstrations during the WTO negotia negotiations, with the Roquefort Revolutionary José Bové at their head, are supposedly forerunners of this "world-wide democracy" or even of a "People�s International" in struggle against the dictatorship of the market, unrestrained capitalism, and bad food. For today�s proletarians, the only worthwhile struggle seems to be for the creation of democratic regimes in every country in the world, which will bring with it equal rights for both sexes and all races, and which will defend an "attitude of good citizenship". The ideology-vendors of every description, and especially on the left, are more mobilised than ever to convince the workers that this is the good fight, and to push them into it. And for any who have doubts, or hesitate to take part, the message is: "Despite its faults, democracy is the only regime which can be reformed and perfected - and anyway there�s no hope of any other". Faced with the growing poverty and barbarism imposed on us by capitalism, there is supposedly no other possibility than to behave as a "good citizen", to accept the system because we are told there is no other choice.

Lenin's State and Revolution: Striking Validation of Marxism

Given the ruling class’ frequent depiction of Lenin as a power-hungry dictator, it is all the more ironic that during the period from April to October his "socialist" adversaries accused him of anarchism. State and Revolution is Lenin’s answer, a profound reflection from a marxist standpoint on the nature of power in the revolution. Lenin began researching the book in 1916, and brought it to fruition in June 1917. In this work, we see the fertile encounter of marxist theory and the real practical experience of the workers’ soviets in Russia, first in 1905 then in 1917.

The Revolutionary Perspective Obscured by Parliamentary Illusions

At the end of the last article in this series, we looked at the principle danger posed to the social democratic parties operating at the zenith of capitalism’s historical development: the divorce between the fight for immediate reforms and the overall goal of communism. The growing success of these parties both in winning ever increasing numbers of workers to their cause, and in extracting concessions from the bourgeoisie through the parliamentary and trade union struggles, was accompanied, and indeed partly contributed to, the development of the ideologies of reformism...

Communism against 'State Socialism'

Class consciousness is a living thing. The fact that a part of the proletarian movement has attained a certain level of clarity does not mean that the whole movement has attained it, and even the clearest fractions can, in certain circumstances, fail to see all the implications of what they have seen, and even lose their grip on a previously-reached level of understanding.

The Russian Experience: Private Property and Collective Property

The article we reproduce below was published by the Gauche Communiste de France (GCF) in no. 10 of their magazine Internationalisme, which came out in May 1946. Internationalisme saw itself as the continuation of Bilan and Octobre, published by the International Communist Left before the outbreak of the Second World War. The GCF had its origins in this current and maintained its general orientations. But Internationalisme wasn’t just a continuation of Bilan: it also went beyond it.

Contributions on the period of transition

Problems of the Period of Transition (April 1975)

The seizure of power by the working class immediately posed a whole new series of problems: how, by what practical measures, could the workers begin to dismantle the whole apparatus of bourgeois power and to improve the material situation of the workers and labouring masses themselves?

Inevitably, the new proletarian power found itself in a contradictory situation: it was confronted with an all-out resistance by the defeated bourgeois class, ranging from military intervention to sabotage; it was necessary to maintain production and distribution on an immediate basis in order to feed the population; and at the same time to take whatever steps were possible towards the transformation of the whole basis of society.

This question was addressed right at the beginning of the ICC’s existence, as this article shows.

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