The proletariat has the great historical mission of destroying capitalism and building a classless communist society. Yet this new society does not grow out of capitalism directly and at once. Between capitalism and communism “lies the period of the revolutionary transformation of the one into the other. Corresponding to this is also a political transition period in which the state can be nothing but the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat” (1).
The dictatorship of the proletariat arises as a result of the successful socialist revolution and thorough demolition of the bourgeois state machine. It is a qualitatively new type of state and differs radically from the previous states in regard to its class nature, the forms of state organisation and the role it is destined to play.
All the preceding types of state were tools of the exploiting classes used for the subjection of the working people and designed to reinforce the system of exploitation and to perpetuate the division of society into oppressors and oppressed. The dictatorship of the proletariat, however, is the rule of the working class which, together with all other working people, destroys capitalism and builds a new society, a society without antagonistic classes and exploitation.
“If we translate the Latin, scientific, historico– philosophical term ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ into simpler language,” Lenin wrote, “it means just the following:
“Only a definite class, namely, the urban workers and the factory, industrial workers in general, is able to lead the whole mass of the working and exploited people in the struggle to throw off the yoke of capital, in actually carrying it out, in the struggle to maintain and consolidate the victory, in the work of creating the new, socialist social system, in the entire struggle for the complete abolition of classes” (2).
The theory of the dictatorship of the proletariat is the crux of Marxism. Only dictatorship, the undivided power of the proletariat, enables the proletariat to put an end to capitalism and build socialism. It is only natural, therefore, that the question of the dictatorship of the proletariat has always been, and remains, the pivot of the ideological struggle of Marxism-Leninism against reformism and revisionism. Lenin called the dictatorship of the proletariat the touchstone for testing the real understanding and recognition of Marxism. To be a Marxist it is not enough merely to recognise the struggle of classes, he said. You can only be a Marxist if you extend recognition of the class struggle to recognition of the dictatorship of the proletariat.
Lenin implacably fought against the reformist leaders of the Second International and revisionists who denied the need for the dictatorship of the proletariat. He tirelessly proved that the dictatorship of the proletariat is the only means for building socialism. And history has fully corroborated him. [….]
Present-day revisionists, however, continue to deny the need for the dictatorship of the proletariat, although they do so in more refined ways than their predecessors. Unable to ignore the existence of the dictatorship of the proletariat in the countries of the socialist system, they do not regard it as a universal, natural form of transition from capitalism to socialism, but as a national form applicable only to economically backward countries like the pre-revolutionary Russia. They assert that dictatorship of the proletariat is applicable only in economically backward countries, with a low level of development of the productive forces and almost no forms of political democracy. As regards the industrialised countries, there, in the opinion of the revisionists, the transition to socialism is effected through “pure democracy,” meaning bourgeois democracy.
The views of the reformists and revisionists run counter to history, which convincingly shows that it is impossible to build socialism without the dictatorship of the proletariat. In the course of socialist construction, the dictatorship of the proletariat solves a number of major problems by performing specific functions—the main aspects of its activity. We shall now examine these functions.
The state of the dictatorship of the proletariat is a state which exists in the period of the transition from capitalism to socialism. This period is characterised by a multi-structural economy and the bitter class struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. The crucial task facing the proletariat at that time is to break down the resistance of the bourgeoisie, and together with all the working people to build socialism. This task determines the functions of the proletarian state.
One of the main domestic functions of the proletarian state in the transition period is the function of suppressing the exploiting classes, the bourgeoisie in the first place. Deprived of its political domination the bourgeoisie in any country cannot reconcile itself to its defeat and the loss of power and privileges, and therefore viciously resists the victorious proletariat. The dictatorship of the proletariat is necessary for overcoming the resistance of the bourgeoisie, for defeating it in fierce class battles. “The dictatorship of the proletariat,” Lenin wrote, “means a most determined and most ruthless war waged by the new class against a more powerful enemy, the bourgeoisie, whose resistance is increased tenfold by its overthrow…” (4).
The suppression of the exploiters is a compulsory task of the proletarian state whatever its form, but this can be done in various forms depending on historical conditions.
The suppression of the bourgeoisie, however, is not an aim in itself for the proletariat. Its main aim is to build socialism, to create a .new, socialist economy. What makes this task so difficult is that the socialist revolution begins when there are no ready-made economic forms of socialism. It is the task of the dictatorship of the proletariat, of the proletarian state, to organise the economic life of society, to build up a new type of economy superior to capitalism, the economy of socialism.
1) Karl Marx, “Critique of the Gotha Programme”, Selected Works Volume Three, p.26.
2) V.I. Lenin, A Great Beginning, Vol. 29, p. 420.
4) V.I. Lenin, “Left-Wing” Communism-An Infantile Disorder”, Collected Works, Vol.31, p.23-24.