In order to have a proper understanding we will discuss about some of the basic issues of the controversy between the two great Marxist thinkers.
Kautsky said that to Lenin dictatorship of proletarian was a form of government. Lenin claimed that his thinking was absolutely in the line of Marx.
On the contrary Kautsky said that dictatorship of proletariat is not a form of government but a type of society; that is it is related to social content. In support of his argument Kautsky refers to the Paris Commune. He says that in the Paris Commune Marx used the concept in this sense.
The Paris Commune was based on democratic principles, multiparty system, free elections and the free expression of opinion. Here lies the main point of difference between Lenin and Kautsky. Lenin completely ignored Marx’s method of establishing dictatorship of the proletariat. Kautsky was against Lenin’s method of applying force. But there was argument in Lenin’s favour.
He argued that Russia was a backward country and in such a state Marx’s principles cannot be followed properly Lenin’s objective was to defeat the counter-revolutionary forces and the conspiracy of capitalists and in order to do that the democratic principles and processes shall be kept in abeyance. Kautsky did not agree with this.
In order to make clear the picture of controversy that arose between Kautsky and Lenin, here is a long passage from Kolakowski’s Main Currents of Marxism:
“The original sin of Bolshevism lay in the suppression of democracy, abolition of elections, and denial of freedom of speech and assembly and, in the belief that socialism could be based on a minority despotism imposed by force, which by its own logic was bound to intensify the rule of terror. If the Leninists were able to keep their ‘Tartar socialism’ going long enough, it would infallibly result in the bureaucratisation and militarisation of society and finally in the autocratic rule of a single individual”.
To what extent Lenin achieved success that is evident from the activities of the Soviet Government. The internal trouble in Soviet Russia surfaced at the beginning of the eighties of the last century.
People of Russia did not accept the suppression of democracy and the establishment of socialism by physical force. Ultimately, in Russia, a new bureaucratic system came into existence.
The bureaucrats completely controlled administration and only a handful of persons controlled the policy-making process. This was the nature of Russian socialism. Kautsky was against such a form of socialism and he apprehended that socialism without freedom, political party, free elections etc. will result in such a system. According to Lenin Kautsky was a “renegade”. But subsequent events prove that Kautsky was not wrong.
The suppression of democracy cannot be tolerated by people for an indefinite period of time. It is unfortunate that while Kautsky realised this Lenin failed and his failure led to the collapse of the entire Soviet system at the beginning of the nineties of the last century.