On the Dictatorship of the Proletariat

There are such questions, the answers to which in certain circles are taken for granted, quite obvious. However, sometimes, when little attention is paid to these issues, it turns out that some fundamentally do not understand seemingly elementary things. This only proves once again that any even the simplest thing, as you may think, should be discussed many times.

It turns out that one of these self-evident questions is the question of the dictatorship of the proletariat. It seems that everyone is talking about it, noting its necessity, but in fact, when it comes to a specific definition, there are some hesitations and even disputes about this very definition. The absurdity of these disputes can be compared to the dispute about the definition of commodity in Marx’s “Capital”. Supposedly we are Marxists, we honor Marxist political economy, but in the definition of the commodity, in the definition of the simplest category of “Capital”, from which Marx deduces political economy as a science, we disagree. So it is with the dictatorship of the proletariat. Some do not take into account what Lenin wrote 100 years ago: “Only he is a Marxist who extends the recognition of the class struggle to the recognition of the dictatorship of the proletariat (emphasis added by the author). That is what constitutes the most profound distinction between the Marxist and the ordinary petty (as well as big) bourgeois. This is the touchstone on which the real understanding and recognition of Marxism should be tested” 1. Some do not notice Marx’s words: “My own contribution was 1. to show that the existence of classes is merely bound up with certain historical phases in the development of production, 2. that the class struggle necessarily leads to the dictatorship of the proletariat (emphasis added by the author); 3. that this dictatorship itself constitutes no more than a transition to the abolition of all classes and to a classless society”. 2. As a result, these very few decide to question the definition of the dictatorship of the proletariat given by the classics of Marxism, which, by the way, as I showed with the example of the commodity in Marx’s “Capital”, leads to far-reaching conclusions. In essence, these doubts lead to the denial of the dictatorship of the proletariat, to the denial of Marxism.

Someone claims that the definition of the dictatorship of the proletariat is outdated, that the number of factory workers in our country is vanishingly small. We are accused of dogmatism. But take any other science, like physics, and try to change some definition there, like the definition of an atom. Do you really think that you will succeed without a serious argumentation base? Can critics of dogmatism, ready to tear up their shirts, accusing everyone around them of dogmatism and quotationism, provide us with such a base? Not a single scientific work is known yet where a new scientific definition of the dictatorship of the proletariat would be consistently provided on the basis of facts and figures. Therefore, we, “dogmatists”, have to fight our own shadow, inventing some argumentation ourselves, and then exposing it.

Accusations of dogmatism very often, as practice has shown, speak of an unwillingness to learn. Who needs quotes? Who Needs Books? We ourselves are geniuses, we will reach all the truths by our own efforts. “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants,” Isaac Newton once said.

So, let’s get closer to the question. Since we are talking about determinations, it would be nice to define a definition. Let us refer to Hegel (for those who do not recognize Hegel, read the previous paragraph), a definition is a quality which in the simple something is an in-itself essentially in unity with the something’s other moment, its being-in-it. And being-in-it is the preservation of in-itself through negation, repulsion of being-for-another. In general, we will not go into the wilds, we will only advise you to actively study Hegel’s “The Science of Logic”. If we consider specific examples of definitions, then we can take the definition of a person, which says that a person is a social animal, working, speaking and reasonable. The definition of a person is not, for example, the presence of lobes on the ears. A man without earlobes is still a man. For example, the definition of a book is not its color. In other words, completely primitivizing for a better understanding, the definition can be called the quality that best corresponds to something that is constantly in it, denies the moments of inequality with itself. Also, a pile of signs cannot be called a definition. For example, very often, when defining fascism, it is defined through a bunch of signs, which, of course, has nothing to do with science and definition.

Before defining the dictatorship of the proletariat, it is worth dwelling on the essence of the state. The essence of any state is a dictatorship, “authority–unlimited, outside the law, and based on force in the most direct sense of the word” 3. You can, of course, say that in many states these same laws exist, and you will be absolutely right. But after all, law is the will of the ruling class, elevated into law. Therefore, the presence of any laws invented by the ruling class does not oblige the ruling class to comply with these laws. The oppressed class does not have an army or police created in order to control the observance of laws by the ruling class, but the ruling class has plenty of such power structures, and they naturally control the oppressed class.

The state is an instrument of exploitation of the oppressed class, an apparatus for the suppression of one class by another. As Engels wrote in his work “The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State”:

“The state is, therefore, by no means a power forced on society from without <…> State is a product of society at a certain stage of development; it is the admission that this society has become entangled in an insoluble contradiction with itself, that it has split into irreconcilable antagonisms which it is powerless to dispel. But in order that these antagonisms, classes with conflicting economic interests, might not consume themselves and society in fruitless struggle, it became necessary to have a power seemingly standing above society that would alleviate the conflict and keep it within the bounds of “order”; and this power, arisen out of society but placing itself above it, and alienating itself more and more from it, is the state”. 4

That is, the state has a purely class character; accordingly, in a classless society, the state dies out as unnecessary. The state exists only as long as classes are not abolished. Engels continues:

“Because the state arose from the need to hold class antagonisms in check, but because it arose, at the same time, in the midst of the conflict of these classes, it is, as a rule, the state of the most powerful, economically dominant class, which, through the medium of the state, becomes also the politically dominant class, and thus acquires new means of holding down and exploiting the oppressed class”.

Thus, we come to the idea of ​​dictatorship. It follows that in the modern capitalist world, the state, in essence, can be either the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, the rule of the minority over the majority, or the dictatorship of the proletariat, the rule of the giant majority over the minority. Therefore, you should not be intimidated by the terrible word “dictatorship”. If you look at things soberly, discarding all the pretty wrappers, we are living under a dictatorship. Naturally, it is covered up with bourgeois democracy (the most innocuous form of the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie), but it also happens that the bourgeoisie spits on all the formalities, stops playing democracy and takes the slippery slope of fascism (the ugliest form of the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie). By saying “dictatorship of the proletariat”, we simply call things by their proper names, we do not mislead anyone.

“Whoever has failed to understand that dictatorship is essential to the victory of any revolutionary class has no understanding of the history of revolutions, or else does not want to know anything in this field” 5.

We smoothly approached the dictatorship of the proletariat. Therefore, it would be worthwhile to quote from Lenin’s work “A Great Beginning”:

“If we translate the Latin, scientific, historico-philosophical term “dictatorship of the proletariat” into simpler language, it means just the following:

Only a definite class, namely, the urban workers and the factory, industrial workers in general (emphasis added by the author), 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 and in the entire struggle for the complete abolition of classes”. 6

It was not by chance that I identified urban and factory workers in general. Today there are many people who believe that Lenin’s definition of the dictatorship of the proletariat is obsolete precisely because of these words. They say that today we have few factory workers, therefore, they cannot be the vanguard, they cannot lead “the entire mass of working and exploited people”. A holy place is never empty, and factory workers are replaced by a certain creative class or something more trivial, for example, hired workers.

Speaking about the leading role of factory workers, one can cite a couple of extracts from Lenin, and then deal with the “outdated” definition.

“Among the whole people <…> there are some who are physically cowed and terrified; there are some who are morally degraded by the ‘resist not evil’ theory, for example, or simply degraded not by theory, but by prejudice, habit, routine; and there are indifferent people, whom we call philistines, petty-bourgeois people who are more inclined to hold aloof from intense struggle, to pass by or even to hide themselves (for fear of getting mixed up in the fight and getting hurt). That is why the dictatorship is exercised, not by the whole people, but by the revolutionary people who, however, do not shun the whole people, who explain to all the people the motives of their actions in all their details, and who willingly enlist the whole people not only in ‘administering’ the state, but in governing it too, and indeed in organizing the state” 7.

“Clearly, in order to abolish classes completely, it is not enough to overthrow the exploiters, the landowners and capitalists, not enough to abolish their rights of ownership; it is necessary also to abolish all private ownership of the means of production, it is necessary to abolish the distinction between town and country, as well as the distinction between manual workers and brain workers. This requires a very long period of time. In order to achieve this an enormous step forward must be taken in developing the productive forces; it is necessary to overcome the resistance (frequently passive, which is particularly stubborn and particularly difficult to overcome) of the numerous survivals of small-scale production; it is necessary to overcome the enormous force of habit and conservatism which are connected with these survivals.”

“The assumption that all “working people” are equally capable of doing this work would be on empty phrase, or the illusion of an antediluvian, pre-Marxist socialist; for this ability does not come of itself, but grows historically, and grows only out of the material conditions of large-scale capitalist production. This ability, at the beginning of the road from capitalism to socialism, is possessed by the proletariat alone. It is capable of fulfilling the gigantic task that confronts it, first, because it is the strongest and most advanced class in civilised societies; secondly, because in the most developed countries it constitutes the majority of the population, and thirdly, because in backward capitalist countries, like Russia, the majority of the population consists of semi-proletarians, i.e., of people who regularly live in a proletarian way part of the year, who regularly earn a part of their means of subsistence as wage-workers in capitalist enterprises” 8.

To talk about the leading role of the creative class, one should probably read Lenin diagonally (or not at all). The so-called creative class, whose boundaries are very blurred, lives in much better conditions than the factory workers, therefore, it will fight for the destruction of classes as long as it wants to, at any convenient moment it can simply distance itself from this struggle. It is the economic conditions that impel the factory workers into the class struggle against the bourgeoisie. Being determines social consciousness. The petty-bourgeois existence of the intelligentsia, the creative class (call it whatever you like) instills in them a petty-bourgeois consciousness. The thesis that the intelligentsia is the vanguard of all working people is tantamount to the thesis that the petty bourgeoisie is the vanguard of all working people. A class that does not have its own definite interests, and therefore is forced to constantly adhere to the bourgeoisie, then to the proletariat, is, apparently, the vanguard of a class with clear objective interests, the vanguard of the proletariat. Isn’t it absurd?

Turning to the hired workers, we can repeat the words of Lenin: “To assume that all“ workers ”are equally capable of this work would be an empty phrase or an illusion of an antediluvian, pre-Marxian, socialist”. It’s the same here. Wage laborers are a much broader group of people, embracing not only the factory and urban workers. Moreover, a couple of movers from the nearest grocery store who are not part of a large work collective can not become the vanguard of all workers. Even the conditionally conscious two loaders cannot wage a full-fledged economic struggle against the bourgeoisie, or organize strikes and strikes. Factory workers are the vanguard of all workers because of the production in which they are employed. This very production educates them, disciplines and directs them. Again, being determines social consciousness. They are not the vanguard from birth, this vanguard does not just fall from heaven. They are the vanguard, first of all, due to their economic position.

Separately, it should be noted that although the factory proletariat is destined to play a leading role, all working people will take part in running the state of the dictatorship of the proletariat. You should not understand the dictatorship of the proletariat separately, as two separate words, this is a scientific expression that cannot be broken into “dictatorship” and “proletariat”. Power will not be in the hands of a small group of factory workers, but in the hands of all working people.

Let us turn to the size of the factory proletariat in Latvia. Although it should be noted right away that, firstly, the number is not an indicator of the “vanguard” of this or that class, and secondly, it is extremely difficult to calculate the exact number of factory workers, therefore the figures that will be presented further cannot be considered the ultimate truth. Referring to the calculations given in one of our articles 9, it is possible, with a greater degree of certainty, to attribute to factory workers at least people employed in the manufacturing industry (after subtracting 10%, which we will take for the administration working at the enterprise), which make up 99,623 people. It is difficult to include people working in other given industries as factory workers. Even those 99,623 may not be made up entirely of factories. However, as mentioned above, the numbers are approximate. Therefore, we will calculate that out of all 949,600 economically active citizens of Latvia, approximately 99,623 people are factory workers, which is approximately 10%, rounding up. This, let us make a reservation, is in backward Latvia, where industry has been destroyed since 1991, and it has been taken out of the country.

The term “vanguard” itself came to us from the art of war, it means the advance guard. The vanguard enters the battle first, but after it the rest of the detachments enter this battle, while sometimes the vanguard may not be numerous. We can see the same situation in the case of factory workers. We do not remove the rest of the workers from the class struggle, we only tell them that it is the vanguard, the factory proletariat, that is leading and guiding them, because it is he who suffers most of all from capitalist oppression, it is his work that requires high responsibility and discipline, which highly valued in the revolutionary “struggle to overthrow the yoke of capital”.

By the way, we will only add that the vanguard is not always only the factory proletariat. Sometimes in the vanguard, you can also enroll other workers who have serious collectives, have a high consciousness, again, determined by working conditions, economic conditions in general. However, it does not follow from this that all wage workers are the vanguard.

Summing up, we can and must admit that Lenin’s definition of the dictatorship of the proletariat is not outdated and corresponds to reality. We must also admit that the denial of the only scientific Leninist definition of the dictatorship of the proletariat is in fact a denial of the dictatorship of the proletariat itself, is the most ordinary opportunism that has nothing to do with Marxism. We are also forced to take into account that any communist party, a party of the working class is obliged to recognize the dictatorship of the proletariat, is obliged to register it in its program and implement it until the complete abolition of classes, to complete communism.

Between capitalist and communist society there 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 <…> Its (Gotha program – author’s) political demands contain nothing beyond the old democratic litany familiar to all: universal suffrage, direct legislation, popular rights, a people’s militia, etc. They are a mere echo of the bourgeois People’s party, of the League of Peace and Freedom (emphasis added by the author)”. 10

 1Lenin, Collective Works, The State and Revolution, The Presentation of the Question by Marx in 1852
 2Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 39, p. 65
 3Lenin, Collective Works, Volume 31, A Contribution To The History Of The Question Of The Dictatorship
 4Engels, The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State.
 5Lenin, Collective Works, Volume 31, A Contribution To The History Of The Question Of The Dictatorship
 6Lenin, Collective Works, Volume 29, A Great Beginning
 7Lenin, Collective Works, Volume 31, A Contribution To The History Of The Question Of The Dictatorship
 8Lenin, Collective Works, Volume 29, A Great Beginning
 9Is There Working Class in Latvia?
 10Marx and Engels Collected Works, Critique of the Gotha Programme