After reading this article you will learn about Dictatorship of Proletariat (DP):- 1. Meaning and Implication of Dictatorship of Proletariat 2. Nature of the Concept of Dictatorship of Proletariat 3. Role in Establishing Socialism 4. Criticism.
Meaning and Implication of Dictatorship of Proletariat:
Lenin took up the issue of dictatorship of proletariat (henceforth DP) very much enthusiastically from Engels’ writing and Marx’s famous work a Critique of Gotha Programme.
Engels in his Socialism: Utopian and Scientific said the proletariat seizes political power and turns the means of production into state property. But in doing this, it abolishes itself as proletariat, abolishes all classes and class distinctions, and abolishes also the state as state.
In this famous comment of Engels the concept of DP is hidden. The proletariat will not only capture political power by overthrowing capitalists, it will establish its supremacy over both economic and political spheres.
Lenin says that by coming to power the first task of the proletariat would be to abolish the state as state. That is, the proletariat will not abolish the state from top to bottom; only the coercive aspects of the state will fall under the scheme of abolition. Explaining the concept Lenin says that in Critique of Gotha Programme of 1875 Marx clearly envisaged of an ideal known as DP. He said that DP is the political form appropriate to the transitional period which lies between the abolition of bourgeois state and the establishment of communist society.
In “Left Wing” Communism an Infantile Disorder Lenin defined DP in the following words the dictatorship of proletariat 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 their overthrow not in the strength of international capital, the strength and durability of their international connection, but also in the force of habit, in the strength of small scale production. This is perhaps the most appropriate definition of DP Lenin has ever offered.
Explaining Lenin’s views on DP Carew Hunt says that Lenin has warned his followers that the DP does not mean the end of state, it will continue in the form of DP. He is at pains to point out that it will be a temporary order only. The exploitation of man by man will cease, but the utility of state will exhaust.
The coercive function of state will be used by the proletariat to suppress the counter-revolutionary forces. Lenin in the State and Revolution has said under communism there remains for a time not only bourgeois law but even the bourgeois state, without the bourgeoisie.
Lenin claims that it is not paradox or simply a dialectical conundrum. He further says that a Marxist is one who extends the acceptance of the class struggle to the dictatorship of the proletariat. Thus DP constitutes the very central part of Lenin’s whole political philosophy. He has explained it in his several works.
Nature of the Concept of Dictatorship of Proletariat:
Lenin conceived of DP as new form of the class struggle of the proletariat. It has already been pointed out that DP does not signify the end of the class structure of society and, if that be so, the DP will release all efforts to intensify class struggle.
To put it in other words, the DP is the continuation of the class struggle of course in new forms. Lenin thought that the proletariat is a special class and hence it is entitled to continue the struggle.
In his view after capturing power the proletariat will utilize the state machinery for the purpose of class struggle. He has further observed that before the seizure of power proletariat also launched struggle, but in the post-capture stage the nature of the struggle will be different.
In earlier epoch proletariat had no opportunity to use the state machinery. With the help of state the proletariat will take all steps to destroy or suppress the remnant of the capitalists.
Lenin has explained the concept of DP as an instrument of class struggle in different perspective. He says that the establishment of DP in one country is not an enough precondition of its survival and success.
In international arena there might be several capitalist countries frustrating the DP and in that case the DP will have to take the cudgel against such eventuality.
This is an important aspect of DP. Moreover, the aim of the DP would be not only to suppress the bourgeoisie but also to neutralize the counter-revolutionary efforts. The DP would also Endeavour to utilize the progressive elements (because such elements are always there) of the bourgeoisie for the realization of its purpose.
The DP will then proceed to destroy bourgeois democracy and establish or lay the foundation of proletarian democracy.
The terms democracy of capitalist society and dictatorship of proletarians are contradictory. But a penetrative analysis reveals that there is no contradiction. Bourgeois democracy is for the few rich and property-owners.
Working class and peasants which constitute the overwhelming majority are deprived of participation in such a democracy and for quite obvious reason this type of democratic system cannot be called perfect democracy.
The proletariat is committed to overthrow this democracy and to set up a proletarian democracy which will be near the democracy of the majority.
DP has also a task in the field of fighting imperialism. The beginning of the 20th century witnessed the menacing advance of imperialism and Lenin hoped that the DP will fight imperialism earnestly. Seizure of power in one country was not enough.
In order to ensure that seizure the imperialism which, according to Lenin, is the highest stage of capitalism, was to be uprooted and DP must assume the responsibility. National war must be converted into international war. DP shall support both materially and in other ways any struggle against imperialism.
Role of Dictatorship of Proletariat in Establishing Socialism:
The DP has a special and very important role in establishing socialism. This aspect of DP has been specifically emphasized by Lenin in several places. He says that socialism means the abolition of classes, but in order to do this it is necessary that the rich landowners and capitalist should be overthrown. It is also necessary that the difference between factory workers and peasants should be obliterated.
He has further observed that this is a stupendous task and cannot be performed at a stroke. Continuous struggle against the vested interests and reactionary elements representing the landlords and bourgeoisie shall be cut to size so that they cannot become insurmountable barriers to the progress to socialism.
The transition from capitalism to socialism, according to Lenin, is extremely protracted the DP must move cautiously. The DP will abolish classes for setting up socialism but the naked fact is that classes cannot be abolished all of a sudden.
Classes will remain and it is the duty of DP to continue the struggle. Without the DP they will not disappear. In the era of the DP every class has undergone a change and the relations between the classes have also changed.
The class struggle does not disappear under the DP, it merely assumes different forms. Under capitalism, the proletariat was an oppressed class, under the DP it will be a ruling class, it wields state power, it exercises control over the means of production.
Nature and Administration of State:
Something needs to be said about the nature and administration of a proletarian state. Lenin is of opinion that one of the important tasks of the proletariat would be to overthrow the elements who are enemies of socialism.
Lenin says that some utopians hold the view that bourgeois parliament should be abolished. He disagrees with this suggestion.
The way out of parliamentarism is not the abolition of representative institutions and the elective principle but the conversion of representative institutions from talking shops “into working bodies”.
The role of the parliament should be reversed. It must act for the betterment of the community and welfare of its members. He believed that the members of the bourgeois parliament are engaged in “political prostitution”.
Lenin thought that representative institutions are the life-blood of proletarian democracy. The DP should take all steps to nurture the political institution so that democracy can smoothly flourish.
Lenin did not want the abolition of bureaucracy at once everywhere and completely. It is a Utopia. But to smash the old bureaucratic machine at once and to begin immediately to construct a new one that will make possible the gradual abolition of all bureaucracy. This is not a utopia; it is the experience of the commune. It is the direct and immediate task of the DP.
Carew Hunt states that Lenin’s observation about the state under DP are of an extreme naivety, because he has reduced it to accounting and control in the State and Revolution Lenin has said that after the overthrow of capitalist and bureaucrats the DP will proceed to control the production and distribution of commodities.
Before this the DP will ensure its control over the sources of production. It will keep account of labour and products and in this work the trained section of population will be of considerable help.
He has further said that the question of control and accounting should not be confused with the question of scientifically trained staff of engineers and agronomists.
Accounting and control is mainly needed for the smooth working, and the proper functioning of the first phase of communist society. He says that capitalism has simplified the accounting and control of the economy and this can be performed by any literate person.
Sometimes special training for some specific works might be needed and that type of training shall be given on behalf of the state by any institution. Therefore, there cannot be any necessity of bureaucracy; it will be reduced to insignificance.
If bureaucracy is made unimportant the system of awarding special remuneration would also be unnecessary. Although Lenin categorically states that the task of accounting and control shall be undertaken by ordinary people he did not rule out the importance and special function of the technicians, specialists and industrialists. In fact, during the period of war communism, these persons performed yeoman’s service.
The DP must not hesitate to requisition the service of these persons. But it is important to note that here the position of Lenin is quite curious. He was desirous of getting special and important service from the technicians and specialists, but at the same time he refused to pay them extra remuneration. This attitude of Lenin made him ludicrous to all his critics.
In fact, Lenin could never reach the goal of socialism or whatever it may be called without the specialist services of technicians and engineers. His orthodox and un-pragmatic attitude towards the bourgeoisie impelled him to assume such a curious position. In the First Five Year Plan Stalin unhesitatingly received the help of bureaucrats and specialists.
For building up of new society and new economy specialists are important. In 1920 Lenin however partially amended his views and attitudes towards specialists.
He said “we have to administer with the help of people belonging to the class the we have overthrown.” This he said in the 9th Party Congress of April 1920.
Criticism of Dictatorship of Proletariat:
Lenin’s theory of DP has been variously criticized. If the proletariat establishes its own mastery over the whole of society then what would be the fate of democratic values and institutions?
The central theme of The State and Revolution reveals that Lenin was a great worshipper of liberalism and democracy. But the dictatorship of the working class and democracy cannot peacefully and fruitfully coexist.
The DP may have several “draconian manifestations” which may be contrary to democracy and liberalism and in that case the DP may be counter-productive.
If the proletariat established its dictatorship what would be the fate of rule of law? The concept rule of law is not a liberal propaganda or full of hollowness. It is a basic feature of democracy. The dictatorship is undoubtedly a negation of rule of law. We do not think that Lenin was not aware of this lacuna of his doctrine.
Liebman in his famous work has pointed out another drawback of the concept. He says that the working class may exercise dictatorial power, but at the same time may make arrangements with the bourgeoisie clandestinely and such a possibility cannot be ruled out.
If this at all happens that will pose the greatest danger to DP. Lenin in 1920 said that the DP is in the period of transition from capitalism to communism. Liebman is of opinion that even this reformulation cannot bend the rigidity of the doctrine.
Liebman further observes that the dictatorship of the proletariat was an ephemeral thing that was unable to survive for long the exhaustion of the political or even simply physical energy of the proletariat.
Lenin was quite aware of it and in 1919 he said that the dictatorship of the working class is being implemented by the Bolshevik Party. What is the position of DP? It means the dictatorship of the party. But the two are not same. Party is a microscopic portion of the whole proletariat.
Critics say that Lenin might have said of the dictatorship of the Bolshevik Party. He further softened his stand by saying that, the proletariat is merged with the party.
Principles, ideologies etc. of the party and the proletariat are identical. This interpretation again, is untenable, because this does not give any scope of difference of opinion.
In fact, the criticisms of Lenin’s theory of DP were so severe and widespread that he could not find out a way. Once he said that the DP was a thing of the past.
At different times Lenin gave different explanations and interpretations and all these substantially confused the concept. This shows that the very foundation of the doctrine was highly feeble.
Marx and Engels thought of DP as an ephemeral phenomenon, it is a period of transition from capitalism to socialism. But they did not get time to overview it closely. What would be its fate after socialisms?