We Are Not Democrats: The Marxist Doctrine of Dictatorship against “Modern Mythology”

Tibor Szamuely

History teaches us that no oppressed class ever did, or could, achieve power without going through a period of dictatorship, i.e., the conquest of political power and forcible suppression of the resistance always offered by the exploiters – a resistance that is most desperate, most furious, and that stops at nothing...The history of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries demonstrated, even before the war, what this celebrated ’pure democracy’ really is under capitalism. Marxists have always maintained that the more developed, the ’purer’ democracy is, the more naked, acute and merciless the class struggle becomes, and the ’purer’ the capitalist oppression and bourgeois dictatorship.1 V.I.Lenin: Thesis and Report on Bourgeois Democracy and the Dictatorship of the Proletariat, March 4th, 1919.

Let the bourgeoisie continue to keep the entire apparatus of state power in their hands, let a handful of exploiters continue to use the former, bourgeois, state machine! Elections held in such circumstances are lauded by the bourgeoisie, for very good reasons, as being "free", "equal", "democratic" and "universal"...only mealy-mouthed petty-bourgeois and philistines can dream — deceiving thereby both themselves and the workers — of overthrowing capitalist oppression without a long and difficult process of suppressing the resistance of the exploiters.2 V.I.Lenin: “Democracy” and Dictatorship, January 3rd, 1919.

1: Introduction

If a century ago Trotsky was happy to observe that the Soviet Union was a “class revolutionary dictatorship” and “not a democracy”3 today’s self avowed Marxists are usually eager to claim the mantle of “pure democracy”4 for themselves. If on the liquidationist right Eric Blanc in Jacobin can insist that Marxists should work to "...win and wield a majority in parliamentary bodies to promote revolutionary change" and lament that the "the project of democratizing the state" has lost “centrality”5 those who nominally stand to his left share the same prejudices. Thus Charlie Post condemns the “existing capitalist state” for its “undemocratic” character while at the same time denouncing the seizure of power by a “revolutionary vanguard” which he identifies with “Stalinism”6. Likewise the Marxist Unity Group of DSA insists that the legitimacy of the “socialist revolution” is to be found in a “democratic majority mandate”7.

Even when one peruses the points of unity produced by militants who refuse integration into the Democratic Party one will look in vain amidst all the nods to petty bourgeois anti-oppression politics for a single reference to the dictatorship of the proletariat. For example the Points of Unity of the Central Ohio Revolutionary Socialists declares that the “working class can only achieve power” through the replacement of “systems of oppression” with “democratic structures” which will invariably represent the “vast majority”8. While the international tendency to which the US media collective Left Voice belongs insists that only way to advance towards “worker’s councils” is to “...propose a free and sovereign constituent assembly that is truly capable of expressing the will of the people9. Further examples could be multiplied indefinitely. The open defence of the necessity of class dictatorship and the recognition that universal democracy is the purest form of bourgeois dictatorship has disappeared. This is in conformity with the counter-revolutionary dynamic of the current period.

The Marxist thesis on the necessity of dictatorship over society by the political elite of the revolutionary class has been eclipsed by adherence to “democratic metaphysics”10. The task of seizing power is obscured by the alleged necessity of winning 51% of the popular vote. The necessity of abolishing wage labour is displaced by sentimentality on the need to respect the popular will and the rights of the individual. This is acceptable if ones aspirations are limited to pandering to the delicate sensibilities of the petty bourgeois which enjoys nothing more then appeals to “democracy” and the “people”11. It is far from satisfactory if one intends to build a communist current in the workers’ movement.

The fetishism of the democratic form operates as the political reflection of capitalist production’s constitutive economic fetishism12. In conformity with the shift enacted by bourgeois modernity from the predominance of religious to the predominance of juridical ideology, the abstract equality of citizens comes to replace the community of believers as the predominant mode of mystifying the class contradiction13. The continuity of the entire sequence is further emphasised by the historical origin of legality in magical practice14. In the bourgeois democratic state, class dictatorship is masked in the superstructure, in the same way class exploitation is masked in the economic structure itself.

Hence the discomfort of the democratic bourgeoisie when even its own representatives openly discuss the source of its power. In this context, the defence of dictatorship functions as a kind of blasphemy against the secular religion of bourgeois democracy. In recent years the historic defeat of the proletariat has ensured that this blasphemy is usually the preserve of reactionaries who would prefer to effectuate bourgeois rule through a renewal of the declining religious ideological forms. The reconstruction of the proletariat as a political class demands the renewal of the Marxist doctrine of dictatorship. The following notes are intended to trace and contextualise this doctrine historically.

2: The Roman Dictatorship

So a republic will never be perfect unless it has provided for everything with its laws and has established a remedy for every accident and given the mode to govern it. So, concluding, I say that those republics that in urgent dangers do not take refuge either in the dictator or in similar authorities will always come to ruin in grave accidents.15

Machiavelli, Discorsi, 1.34.

Cincinnatus Abandons the Plough to Dictate Laws to Rome

The Roman republic was an important precursor to the modern bourgeois and by extension proletarian republican project. It provided a model of republican class rule in the same way that Roman law provided a framework for the renewed development of commodity economy.

The Roman institution of dictatorship was characterised by the assignment of sovereign power to a single man outside of the normal system of offices with a mandate for the resolution of a crisis threatening the continuity of the state. As Machiavelli justly noted in his brief discussion of this institution, far from forming a danger to republican order, it was a crucial means to preserve the stability of the same. Implemented more than eighty times without significant abuses, this extraordinary delegation of power served both to organise the defence of the republic from external threats and to resolve internal crisis of dissension between the strata of free citizens.

In the latter role far from being a mere tool of aristocratic repression, it served as a means to rebalance relations among the orders and renew the basis of social integration which gave the republic its exceptional dynamism16. When republican institutions in general fell into decline, the dictatorship likewise came into disuse17. The Roman dictatorship provides clear evidence that, from the beginning of historical record, the preservation of civic freedom for the ruling class and its delegation of autocratic power in crisis have been inseparably bound together18. Freedom and dictatorship throughout the unfinished history of their mutations in class content have never existed in a state of mutual exclusion. Rather, they form a mutually constitutive dialectical totality.

What – at least superficially, distinguishes the Roman institution from the forms of modern revolutionary dictatorship to be discussed below, is its conservative character. The mandate of the Roman dictator, whatever its specifics, was always to return to the status quo ante. His objective was to maintain, not transform the political superstructure and the economic base it reflected. Moreover, his position was given by the existing constitutional structure. He preserved the existing order, he did not fabricate a new one. However, we must be careful not to absolutise this distinction.

Here, it is important to differentiate between two meanings of the term dictatorship:

  • Dictatorship of the Ruling Class: this first form of dictatorship is the normal state of every republic as a political mode of organisation of the class contradiction. This is the dictatorship of the ruling class over the subordinate classes subject either to exploitation or to liquidation (in the case of the dictatorship of the proletariat). Such a dictatorship may either mask its rule (bourgeois republics following the introduction of universal suffrage, bourgeois workers’ states following the defeat of the proletarian left) or organise it openly (the dictatorship of the proletariat and that of prior exploiting classes). This dictatorship is never actively exercised by the entire class but by a governing elite.
  • Dictatorship within the Ruling Class: The second form is a temporary or permanent delegation of authority by the ruling class to an individual or a faction. The Roman dictatorship is an example of this second form.

The French Revolution of 1789 and the Russian Revolution of 1917–18 inaugurated a new class dictatorship of the first form. The second form of dictatorship began in the French Revolution with the Committee of Public Safety, and in the Russian Revolution, with the ban on factions at the 10th Congress of the CPSU. The dissolution of the Constituent Assembly and the promulgation of the 1918 Constitution of the RSFSR inaugurated the proletarian dictatorship in the first form through the overthrow of bourgeois democracy. The second form only appears in the “abnormal” Party regime which begins from the 10th Congress19. In the case of both the Roman republic and the modern revolutions the second form of dictatorship is implemented as a defensive measure to secure an established state order against unfavourable circumstances.

It is also worthy of note that another feature which could be alleged against any continuity between the Roman dictatorship and its modern revolutionary successors has been demolished in recent scholarship. The famous term limit which strictly restricted the dictator’s authority to a span of six months is not borne out by an examination of the historical record and seems to have been an interpolation which did not reflect the actual workings of the institution20. In fact the dictator’s term was the time required to complete the task he was mandated to fulfil.

What actually distinguishes the paradigmatic examples of modern revolutionary dictatorship from the Roman is neither “sovereign” caprice nor indefinite extension but their much more collegial and democratic character21. If the Roman dictators could exercise individual command over the state dozens of times without ever restoring the monarchy we can fairly question the logic of unreasonable fear over the dictatorship of a party uniting the elite of the revolutionary class22. In fact, the latter was not a dictatorship at all in the Roman sense, as we emphasise above. Throughout the Russian Civil War, revolutionary workers freely discussed and factionalised within the confines of the party. Even the second form of dictatorship only becomes the permanent rule of an individual after the triumph of the petty bourgeois bureaucracy over the proletarian left in the intraparty struggle.

We must remind contemporary Marxists, as Rossiter reminded his fellow liberals, that “the word dictatorship should be no cause for alarm”23. In the following section we will briefly examine how both forms of dictatorship make up the constitutive substance and founding principle of bourgeois democracy and by extension of the determinate negation of the latter in the proletarian revolution.

3: Dictatorship in the Bourgeois Revolution

...a system of the most oppressive tyranny that can possibly be imagined; - a tyranny, not only over the actions, but over the words, thoughts, and wills, of the good people of this province.24 Loyalist Samuel Seabury on the American Revolutionary Committees of Safety in 1775.

The Dutch Revolt, as the inauguration of the first territorial bourgeois republic, can be considered the first link in the chain of classical bourgeois revolutions which extends until the closing period of the French revolution. Within the latter, we see the first emergence of the proletariat as a self conscious antagonist. As one might expect, victory for progressive forces in the Netherlands was not secured by a peaceful democratic consensus or by undisciplined federalism.

On the contrary the revolutionary forces put their trust in a strong executive power in the form of the Stadholder who was empowered as a "sovereign and supreme head" for the duration of the insurgency against the "Spanish tyranny"25. The country was subject to arbitrary military rule, conscription and in at least one case the flagrant abuses of an extraordinary committee placed above the normal judicial process26.

If the Dutch bourgeoisie had trusted in municipal democracy to secure its liberty against the Spanish strategy of total war,27 we can be certain its fate would not have been contention for world domination, but rather a prefiguration of the Bloody Week which finalised the defeat of the Paris Commune. As polemics of the time argued, (some referring to the Roman example) the defence of liberty in wartime demands special measures28. It was only through the acceptance of a strong executive that the Dutch bourgeoisie were able to establish and secure their freedom29.

Kautsky’s observation on the equivalence between the European wars of religion and the struggle of the proletariat was indeed accurate30. But it carried implications abjured by its author. Not simply the gradual accumulation of forces within the existing legal framework, but ultimately, the victory of an activist minority through prolonged civil war31.

In the English revolution which follows we find a straightforward defence of the legitimacy and necessity of minority rule in ensuring the implementation of the new constitutional order. In the 1648 London pamphlet Salus populi solus rex. The peoples safety is the sole soveraignty, or The royalist out-reasoned the author, in response to the Royalist claim of majority support for the prerogatives of the king, observes32:

We Reply, that upon presumption that the major party was the rational, knowing, and considerate party, doubtless in things in themselves disputable, the minor party is to be included in them; but upon presumption that the major party be the sensual, ignorant and inconsiderate party, the minor party must not be included in their Vote: for must rational men subject themselves onto sensual and sober to mad men, because they are more in number then themselves? Who but a mad man will affirm it? Must wise men submit to fools and considerate to rash men because their numbers exceed?33

The English republicans honestly affirmed the dictatorship of a minority and enforced it through the censorship of opposition press and the disenfranchisement of opposition votes34. They had a clear practical awareness that, in the final determination, it is organised violence which shapes majority consensus in its own image and not the reverse. As New Model Army officer Francis White rather imprudently observed there is now ‘now no visible authority in the kingdom but the power and force of the sword’35. It was precisely realist adherence to this fact which allowed the bourgeois and gentry under Cromwell to triumph over the incoherent petty bourgeois libertarianism to their left36.

The bourgeoisie only becomes a partisan of the “sacred principle” of majority rule once it has, not only seized power, but becomes convinced that the universal suffrage wrested from it as a concession is also the best means of organizing its rule. When it is still a dynamic and revolutionary class, it breaks through the legal bounds obstructing its power without any concern for democratic pieties.

In the American revolution of 1776 which marked a qualitative leap in the development of bourgeois freedom, dictatorship forms the necessary, all-embracing premise. The revolutionary government of the colonists was articulated as a dual power through the organization of the Committees of Safety37. These were executive bodies with extraordinary power which imposed their dictate over the activity, speech and thought of the population without review, appeal or any concern for the separation of powers38. These institutions often lacked majority support. For example, in Queens County, New York c. 1775, more than twice as many citizens had pledged their loyalty to the Crown as did to the rebellious colonists39. Such lack of support was, of course, resolved through the rigours of repression, not the absurdity of democratic consultation in the midst of armed clashes. In fact, in Virginia, the revolutionary government simply demolished the city of Norfolk on account of its Loyalist leanings40.

The USA, which, throughout the 20th century has presented itself as a democratic bulwark against the “totalitarianism” of revolutionary dictatorships seeking to actualise Enlightenment through the rationalisation of society, was born as precisely such a dictatorship41. If the men of property who fought a revolutionary civil war and imposed emergency rule on the recalcitrant and the subversive to realise the novus ordo seclorum were soon to object when the realisation of this project turned against their own class, they were not the first driven to hypocrisy by the movement of history. It is in this sense that communism is indeed 21st century Americanism.

With the French Revolution, the bourgeois revolution advanced through the petty bourgeois populism of the Jacobins to the point of generating its own determinate negation in the first articulation of communism as a modern political project. Here, as in England and North America, the bourgeois revolution did not rely on, and lacked, majority support42. On the contrary, a revolutionary minority dictatorship carried the bourgeois revolution to its furthest extreme in the complete abolition of feudal privilege defended by the systematic organisation of political terror. Democratic equality is revealed in its origins as the product of dictatorship. Prior to the aggressively counter-revolutionary turn of intellectual culture in recent decades, this was quite clear even to liberal historians43.

The historical record is unequivocal. When the bourgeoisie sets itself against feudalism, it comes to power, not through majority consensus but through a minority dictatorship, one which embodies the need of the new production relations for a transformation of the political superstructure. It is in the process of civil war that a new common sense, a new majority consensus, is forged around the interests of the class constituting itself and coming into dominance.

Here, we must add a significant caveat. The bourgeoisie, unlike the proletariat, may forgo the struggle for power and assimilate the aristocracy through the conversion of feudal property into bourgeois property. The proletariat, bound to the program of abolition of private property, has no such flexibility in relation to the bourgeoisie. The capitalists cannot be bought off by the continuation of their status in the new order because the precondition for even beginning its construction is the elimination of this status. The greater violence and intensity of the proletarian dictatorship is objectively given by the greater radicalism of its program.

The nobility and the clergy could look forward to the conversion of their feudal dues and tithes into new forms of appropriation of surplus labour which assured continued participation in the exploitation of the immediate producers. The best the dictatorship of the proletariat can offer the capitalist class, who the dictatorship of the proletariat must completely expropriate in order to secure its own existence, is perhaps a glorified pension. This is the kind of deal a defeated remnant of the bourgeoisie, with its back to the wall, might accept when the impending alternative is extermination. It is not something a capitalist class in power will cheerfully accept as an alternative to unleashing civil war on its adversary. Nor will the majority of the vast middle classes consign themselves peacefully to the elimination of the privileges they earn from commodity fetishism in the same way the priest once earned his tithes from the state religion. When the first communists began to theorise how to win supremacy in the battle beginning to break out within the Third Estate they were not unconscious of these facts.

4: Dictatorship in the Jacobin Communists

The revolutionary movement which began in 1789 in the Cercle Social, which in the middle of its course had as its chief representatives Leclerc and Roux, and which finally with Babeuf’s conspiracy was temporarily defeated, gave rise to the communist idea which Babeuf’s friend Buonarroti re-introduced in France after the Revolution of 1830. This idea, consistently developed, is the idea of the new world order.44 Marx and Engels, 1844.

With the Conspiracy for Equality under the Directory, there was a qualitative leap from the petty bourgeois program of a nation of property owners to the proletarian program of the abolition of private property45. This program was united with the recognition that only the violent seizure of state power by an organised party with a base of support amongst the “proletariat” (the “only true supporters of equality”)46. This party would employ systematic coercion to implement the transition to communism. As Buonarotti observed in his History of the Conspiracy for Equality:

To pretend to establish justice and equality without employing force, amongst a people of whom great numbers had contracted habits and pretensions irreconcilable with the well being of society and the just right of all, is a project as chimerical as it is seductive in theory.47

Moreover, the revolutionary party would necessarily be a minority even if reliance on the broadest possible support among working people was a crucial foundation for its success48. As Bounarotti put it:

The spirit of the Republic when established forms that of the citizens and of the magistrates; but at the commencement it is only the wisest and most ardent instigators of reform who can create the popular Republican spirit.49

At the same time this dictatorship would only be temporary, functioning to eliminate the obstacles to a regime of mass democracy grounded in communist production50. Here we can see the later Marxist concept of the dictatorship of the proletariat already sketched in all its defining features. All that remained to be added was a full understanding of the process of democratic centralism both within the party and in the dynamic relation between the party and the organisations of the workers movement. The Jacobin communists were precluded from clarifying these issues by the minimal development of the workers’ movement in their time.

To fault them for this, however, is hardly more reasonable than faulting Marx for not formulating Lenin’s critique of the imperialist state or Trotsky’s analysis of the bureaucracy under the proletarian dictatorship. Buonarotti’s summation of the practice and program of the Conspiracy for Equality remains an inestimable contribution to the formulation of the doctrine of the class party and the class dictatorship. It was left to Marx and Engels to ground it scientifically, purifying it of petty bourgeois mystification. It is perfectly correct to say that Marx “consistently developed” Buonarotti’s “idea of the new world order”.

5: Dictatorship for Marx and Engels

We have not yet forgotten the glorious example set by the French in 1793 and, if our hand is forced, we might in fact celebrate the centenary of 1793 by showing that the German working men of 1893 are not unworthy of their predecessors the Sansculottes…51 Engels to Bebel. 24 and 26 October 1891.

The Conspiracy for Equality and subsequent secret societies formed a primitive articulation of proletarian politics defined in relation to a workers’ movement and a bourgeois democracy which were as yet embryonic. Marx and Engels carried out a clarification of this trajectory in relation to the maturation and growing predominance of the same. While Marx and Engels articulated the necessity for the proletariat to constitute itself as a party within and through bourgeois democratic legality, this constitution was never more than a means to the end of superseding the same52. This process of destruction was necessary to open the way to a qualitatively different form of democracy, reflective of the new production relations in emergence53.

Despite the repeated claims of the “dogs of democrats and liberal riff-raff,”54 Marx and Engels never shrank from the necessity of dictatorship by and even within the revolutionary party as the only possible form of proletarian defence in relation to the armed counter-revolution. Furthermore, they consistently cited the 1793–94 Committee of Public Safety as a model for proletarian dictatorship, while recognising with equal clarity the bourgeois class-character of the Jacobin movement55. As Engels observed in 1851, against the summation of 1848 produced by the bourgeois democrat Techow, who was calling for an “apolitical” military dictatorship:

It took France from 1789 to 1792 to reorganise an army—Dumouriez's—of only about 60,000–80,000 men, and even that disintegrated again and there was no organised army to speak of in France until the end of 1793. It took Hungary from March 1848 to the middle of 1849 to create a properly organised army. And who brought discipline to the army in the first French Revolution? Not the generals who, at a time of revolution, do not acquire influence and authority in improvised armies until a few victories have been won, but rather the terreur of internal politics, of the civil power.56

It was the “internal politics” of systematic terror against the class enemy which secured victory for the most comprehensive of the democratic revolutions according to Engels. In the following year Marx observed contemptuously of fellow democratic exiles:

So far as these jackasses are concerned, Bonaparte has lived in vain. They still go on believing in 'universal franchise', and are solely preoccupied with paltry calculations as to how they can again impose their rotten personalities on the German people.57

Universal suffrage, like terror, was no more than a means to end, and Marx found its fetishists worthy of mockery. In the same year he wrote his famous letter to Wedemayer clarifying that it was the necessity of the dictatorship of the proletariat, and not the fact of the class struggle, which differentiated his doctrine58. The same Wedemayer who, a few months earlier, had written the first article in any language devoted to the dictatorship of the proletariat, and who at the close of that piece leaving nothing to the imagination concerning what he meant by the term dictatorship, wrote:

If a revolution is to be victoriously carried through, it will require a concentrated power, a dictatorship at its head. Cromwell' s dictatorship was necessary in order to establish the supremacy of the English bourgeoisie; the terrorism of the Paris Commune and of the Committee of Public Safety alone succeeded in breaking the resistance of the feudal lords on French soil.59

This is quite far from the "...peaceful submission of the minority to the majority.." so beloved by “sham socialists”60. In 1853 in an April letter to Wedemayer, Engels observed regarding the role of communists in future revolutions:

...in practice we shall, as always, be reduced to insisting above all on resolute measures and absolute ruthlessness.61

Engels as a realistic military man no doubt understood all too well that to indulge in humanitarian scruples about democracy and civil liberty in the midst of an existential struggle is simply a particularly irresponsible form of suicide. This was confirmed by the tenor of the correspondence between himself and Marx on the American Civil War.

As Marx observed in August 1862:

The long and the short of it is, I think, that wars of this kind ought to be conducted along revolutionary lines, and the YANKEES have so far been trying to conduct it along constitutional ones.62

He added in September of the same year:

The way in which the North is waging the war is none other than might be expected of a bourgeois republic, where humbug has reigned supreme for so long. The South, an oligarchy, is better suited to the purpose…63

Engels for his part could only observe that “if only there were some evidence, some indication, that the masses in the North were beginning to act as in France in 1792 and 1793, everything would be splendid”64 and lamented that, “desirable though it may be, on the one hand, that the bourgeois republic should be utterly discredited in America too, so that in future it may never again be preached ON ITS OWN MERITS, but only as a means towards, and a form of transition to, social revolution, it is, nevertheless, annoying that a rotten oligarchy, with a population only half as large, should evince such strength as the great fat, helpless democracy”65.

For both men it was clear that a bourgeois republic which failed to display terroristic Jacobin severity towards the enemies of liberty was worthy of nothing but contempt. Lincoln’s half-hearted repressive measures didn’t cut it. In fact Engels expressed his fear of a “democratic counter-revolution” leading to a “hollow peace”66. There was just as little room for superstitious respect for democratic norms in the bourgeois revolution as there would be in the proletarian revolution.

They made this abundantly clear in their criticisms of the Paris Commune. As Marx noted in a letter to Liebknecht, the impending defeat of the Communards was their “own fault”67. Why? Because to avoid the “appearance” of “having usurped power” they “lost precious moments” in holding elections68. In Marx’s opinion, the Central Committee of the National Guard should have held on to power in order to organise the defence of the revolution through preemptive war69. Unfortunately they gave into their democratic scruples, thus ensuring their own extermination. Marx, as a political realist who admired Machiavelli and Hobbes, had no time for such “decency”70.

Engels was perhaps even more explicit on the lessons of the Commune. As he observed in an 1872 letter to Terzaghi:

It was the lack of centralisation and authority that cost the life of the Paris Commune. After the victory make what you like of authority, etc., but for the struggle we need to gather all our forces into a single band and concentrate them on the same point of attack.71

Those who claim the Bolshevik party state was a “betrayal” of the democratic and libertarian impulse of Marx and Engels allegedly on display in their summation of the Paris Commune are guilty of selective reading at best. For Marx and Engels, “Justice, Liberty,[and] Equality” were a “modern mythology” and if anything was going to be “achieved” it would require “force”72. Revolution demanded ruthless application of centralised authoritarian power to stamp out all resistance throughout a protracted period of violent repression73.

They came to this conclusion on exactly the same basis that they rejected Blanquist conspiracy and anarchist abstention. This conclusion was one of realism, beginning not from moral ideals, but the balance of forces. Unlike so many of their followers, Marx and Engels were not dreamers or fanatics, but statesmen of the stamp of Machiavelli and Clausewitz. What was in question was an unconstrained struggle for power, not a bourgeois humanitarian fetishism of democratic choice or individual rights74.

Not only was a provisional dictatorship by the revolutionary party, in violation of formal democratic norms, a necessary expedient in the face of civil war, military-disciplinary measures within the class party could not be excluded on principle. Though Engels emphasised the dangers of a “monolithic” party in his correspondence with the German Social Democrats, as well as the need for freedom of criticism in regards to the leadership if the Social Democrats in order to prevent them from degenerating to the level of their antagonists, he also noted the opposite side of the question in an 1885 letter to Danish Social Democrat Gerson Trier75. Responding to Trier’s narrative of a summary expulsion by party leadership, he observed:

Now as regards the methods adopted towards you and your friends by the Hovedbestyrelsen, such summary expulsion of an opposition from the party certainly occurred in the secret societies of 1840–51; the very secrecy of the organisation made this inevitable. It also occurred— not infrequently—among the English Physical Force Chartists under the dictatorship of O'Connor. But the Chartists, being a party specifically organised for the use of force as their very name implies, were subject to dictatorship, and expulsion was an act of military discipline. On the other hand I have heard of no such high handed procedure in time of peace…76

The relation between democracy and dictatorship within the class party was not determined by fixed principle but the requirements of struggle against the enemy. As Engels noted in the same letter:

Disregarding the question of morality—a point I am not concerned with here and shall therefore not discuss—I would, as a revolutionary, countenance any means, the most violent but also what may seem the most moderate, that were conducive to the ends.77

If for the seizure of political power “democratic forms are also necessary to the proletariat” they are, just like other political forms, only a “means”78. And a “republic” just like any form is determined by what “composes it”. Hence, a bourgeois republic is “quite as hostile to us as any monarchy whatsoever”79. By the same token, as we saw above, if the proletariat encounters resistance, it should not hesitate to suspend democratic forms and rule with “nothing but the power and force of the sword”. If Engels was compelled to observe that the Paris Commune was the dictatorship of the proletariat, he would have been even happier to say the same of a state of siege dictated by the Central Committee of the National Guard, sacrificing any pretence of democratic consultation to the destruction of Versailles.

6: The Second International and Dictatorship

What alarms you about the word dictatorship? You the gentlemen of the majority parties sitting here? You are not alarmed by the fact. Do we not have a dictatorship of the bourgeoisie in reality? Do we not have a dictatorship in the harshest form with the [anti] socialist law? […] You don’t call that dictatorship! Now, we would certainly not impose worse upon you if we were to be in power and you were to be rebellious and violate the law. That dictatorship would be completely sufficient...Honestly dictatorship is not something I particularly love; but in a civil war we don’t have peacetime conditions-we already have something like a social war. And in a civil war the government must impose dictatorship, it is compelled and duty bound to dictatorship.80 Wilhelm Liebknecht in the Reichstag 1893.

With the Second International, Marxist parties nominally committed to the struggle against revisionism, and opportunism became a predominant trend in the international workers’ movement. However, they won their unity and their legality at the cost of a creeping ambiguity in relation to revisionism, which only required the test of a single crisis to reveal itself as open capitulation. As Lenin noted at the opening point of that crisis:

“Peaceful” decades, however, have not passed without leaving their mark. They have of necessity given rise to opportunism in all countries, and made it prevalent among parliamentarian, trade union, journalistic and other “leaders”81.

The centrist consensus of the “peaceful decades” built the groundwork for the treason to follow. It is indisputable that, more than any other figure, Kautsky acted as the cornerstone of this consensus82. However, his task of conciliation made it impossible for him to throw revolutionary Marxism overboard. On the contrary he was compelled to proceed by a skilful balancing act which combined a recognition of revolutionary reality with qualifying clauses and omissions which leave an escape hatch for opportunism83. It is precisely this recognition that makes his early work immeasurably superior to contemporary democratic socialism, which is simply the historical culmination of opportunism in a repetitive dialogue with itself. Kautsky was compelled to balance between the “two worlds” described as follows in Lenin’s 1910 article of the same title:

Two worlds of ideas: on the one hand, the point of view of the proletarian class struggle, which in certain historical periods can proceed on the basis of bourgeois legality, but which leads inevitably to a denouement, an open collision, to the dilemma: either “smash” the bourgeois state “to smithereens” or be defeated and strangled. On the other hand, the point of view of the reformist, the petty bourgeois who cannot see the wood for the trees, who cannot, through the tinsel of constitutional legality, see the fierce class struggle, who forgets in the backwoods of some diminutive state the great historical problems of the present day.

The reformists imagine themselves to be realist politicians, doers of positive work, statesmen. It is in the interests of the masters of bourgeois society to encourage these childish illusions in the ranks of the proletariat, but the Social-Democrats must destroy them ruthlessly.84

Today’s democratic socialism, unlike pre-1914 Social Democracy, only incorporates the latter of these “worlds” and Burgfrieden and the October Revolution separated the two irreversibly. The first world advanced to Leninism while the second sank into the imperialist state. Kautsky, however, contained both worlds in the trajectory of his thought.

To unduly minimise the revolutionary aspect of Kautsky’s early work and by extension of Second International orthodoxy is to at the same time to unduly minimise the threat of opportunism. Opportunism triumphed in the parties of the Second International despite the ad nauseam proclamation of fidelity to revolutionary principles85. What was lacking was not so much the correct formulation of principles but the systematic and ruthless application of correctly formulated principles to political practice86. Therefore, when it came time for Kautsky to defend Marxism against Bernstein’s shameless democratism, he rose to the occasion in a manner that, although less than satisfactory, places him head and shoulders above his contemporary imitators87.

Marx and Engels agreed that 1793, the paradigmatic year of revolutionary dictatorship and terror, was “glorious” and, as Engels observed in 1883, the first reason the proletariat will have to “...possess itself of the organised political force of the State” is to “...stamp out the resistance of the Capitalist class”88. The stance of the founders of Marxism that a provisional dictatorship in the sense of extraordinary rule was a normative part of the revolutionary process was far from ambiguous as we have discussed above. It was precisely this continuity with the modern, revolutionary, and Jacobin tradition to which Bernstein, like the English liberals he admired, took exception89. For Bernstein, it was necessary to scrupulously respect the rights of the individual and of the majority, first of all the right to submit to exploitation in a democratic dialogue with the exploiter90 – at least if you were “civilised” enough for such a delicate task. If not, colonial rule was quite good enough for you91.

Kautsky, on the other hand, was not willing to negate the foundational Marxist thesis on the relation between democracy and dictatorship, in spite of his willingness to “slur over” both the realistic inevitability of civil war and the essential differences in form between bourgeois and proletarian democracy . Thus for him,, far from having an independent value as a “universal principle”, democracy was only a means to the end of proletarian power. As he observed in 1896 correspondence with Bernstein:

We have a series of political demands in common with the democratic bourgeoisie and within these limits we can say we are democrats. That does not mean, however, that we have the task of introducing democratic principles in all sectors of life: cooperation demands that some outline the work plan and others implement it, that one commands and the others implement the orders […]. What can be said of social production can be said even more of social struggle. In the organisation of production and in the organisation of the party one cannot always respect the democratic principle, because here the application of the democratic form is a question of utility not of principle92.

We should note here that the Marxists of Kautsky’s generation had “political demands” in common with the democratic bourgeoisie because of the continued survival of feudalism and absolutism in their time. Today, after almost a century of further bourgeois revolution throughout the world, communists face bourgeois democracy as a “reactionary mass” whose progressive content has been exhausted93.

In his correspondence with Bernstein, Kautsky made clear his scepticism towards democracy and his confidence, not in the majority, but in a working class political elite94. These points were to be reiterated in his 1899 polemic with Bernstein. Against Bernstein’s claim that democracy means the “abolition of class rule”, he observes:

Why should democracy in principle be equated with the abolition of class rule? It means the rule of the class which forms the majority or which holds the majority in economic or intellectual dependency upon itself.

Certainly democracy is the essential condition for the abolition of class rule, but that is because it constitutes the only political form in which the proletariat can come to class rule... Without the class rule of the proletariat no abolition of classes.

Bernstein, however, fears this class rule, and seeks in democracy the method which abolishes class rule “in principle” and thereby makes the proletariat superfluous.95

For Kautsky, democracy is not a universal principle which finally finds its full realisation in socialism. On the contrary, it is simply a necessary condition for the proletariat to fully unfold its struggle with the bourgeoisie. It is Bernstein who attempts to conflate democracy with the abolition of class rule. If Kautsky in 1899 was a Social Democrat he was not such a fool as to expound “democratic socialism”. For him democracy was, like large scale industry, a condition for the full development of the proletarian struggle. No more and no less. Those who today confuse socialism with “pure democracy” are the intellectual heirs of Bernstein, not of Kautsky in the pre-revisionist period of his thought. Kautsky, in his polemic against Bernstein, does not attempt to prove that the class rule of the proletariat is identical to democracy. On the contrary, he faults Bernstein for seeking to evade the necessity of proletarian class rule through an appeal to democracy.

Kautsky continues by noting that while Bernstein “indignantly” rejects the concept of proletarian dictatorship, it is questionable whether such characters as the Prussian Junkers, the French General staff, Rockefeller and Gould can be dealt with in the democratic manner which Bernstein prefers. He adds that social contradictions, far from lessening (as Bernstein alleges) are becoming more acute96. As Lenin noted, he evades coming out openly in favour of the dictatorship of the proletariat, leaving the question for the “future”97. However, any intelligent reader could hardly conclude that Rockefellers or Goulds would give up their positions on account of a vote by 51% of a representative assembly. That was left to the stupid and the malicious, of which history has provided a bumper crop. It should also be noted that in his selection of examples, Kautsky made no distinction between semi-absolutist Germany and democratic France and America. All experienced the same labour-capital contradiction, which leaves dictatorship as the only realistic possibility. Bernstein’s concern for the rights of individuals and minorities was naive at best, considering the harsh trend of social development. Kautsky could well have said to Bernstein what he later said to the reformist Maurenbrecher:

There is no doubt that the revolution is a terrible event which can cause great unhappiness to each of us and impose enormous sacrifices even on the proletariat as a whole...But development follows its own iron logic and does not take account of our desires.98

More generally, Kautsky in his 1893 polemic with Rittinghausen on direct popular legislation had already made clear what he thought of “freedom” and “individual rights”. Discussing the supposed absolute power of the English parliament and the discipline of the parties within it he noted:

This “despotism” and “terrorism” is however no special particularity of parliamentarianism. One finds it everywhere, where great masses fight for an important objective of struggle which can only be achieved through the tightest cohesion and the most decisive cooperation of all in the same direction. There is nothing more comical then to hear the liberal politician who groans under fraction and party constraint thundering against the terrorism practised by the trade unions. It is equally comical when anarchists uphold the trade unions against the “despotism” which parliamentarianism brings with it, as strongholds of “freedom” which is to say anarchist disintegration.99

The reference to the trade unions here is quite appropriate. Any truly effective and decisive strike is based on a minority decision and the ruthless imposition of a “state of siege” against strikebreakers and scabs. Only an idiot would demand respect for the “civil and human rights” of the strikebreaker or that the continuation of the strike be made dependent upon a democratic referendum of the whole population. The union imposes its will upon society and the intermediate strata lend their support out of fear just as much as anything else100. In that respect every combative strike is a nascent proletarian dictatorship101.

However, one might wonder if perhaps the early Kautsky saw revolutionary dictatorship however harsh and unrestricted as necessarily taking the form of a democratic rule of the majority over a defeated minority? That too seems unlikely. Consider his reflections on who exactly exercises proletarian class rule in the 1899 polemic with Bernstein.

...in the class struggle the totality of the members of no class fight. Everywhere, we find only an elite at the forefront of the struggle, whose political capacity is decisive for the trajectory of the class. In every class the masses partly follow the elite without their own initiative and partly completely avoid the struggle. The political rule of the proletariat actually means only the rule of its elite, as we find with the bourgeoisie, with the Junkers, with every ruling class.102

If for Kautsky in 1899 the rule of this elite would entail a parliamentary majority as its premise he later became more realistic as the above cited polemic with Maurenbrecher demonstrates. He concludes his response to Maurenbrecher’s demand that the SDP wait for not only a majority but a super majority of “at least” 75% before the “decisive confrontation” by stating:

...long before we have reached 75 or even 50 percent of the electorate our opponents will have ceased to quietly watch as we grow ever stronger.103

As always in politics when we approach the decisive questions it is not a majority consensus which appears on the horizon but the “power and force of the sword”. Kautsky may not have had as much dangerously honest vulgarity as Francis White but at least before 1910 he didn’t stoop to telling the children that babies come from storks. His historic failure was the failure to definitively exclude bourgeois democratic forms as a means towards proletarian power and to affirm not just the possibility but the necessity of the proletarian dictatorship104. This failure found its logical culmination in support for the August 4th war credits vote, and was the failure of an entire generation105. It found its correction in Bolshevism and the 1918 dispersal of the Constituent Assembly.

7: Proletarian Dictatorship in Practice

History on the whole knows of no revolution that was accomplished in a democratic way. For revolution is a very serious contest, which is always settled, not according to form, but according to content.106 Trotsky 1922.

We have established in the above both the necessity of dictatorship for the revolutionary class and the purely instrumental character of democratic methods. In the Paris Commune, the nascent proletariat’s failure to internalise this resulted in its rapid defeat. Likewise, the failure of the Second International to go beyond a realistic recognition of dictatorship towards its assertion as a line of demarcation assured its rapid collapse with the arrival of the world revolutionary crisis.

The lesson of the Soviet experience on the dictatorship, a lesson which only reaffirms the original Marxist position, is the inextricable connection between the political dictatorship of the proletariat and its economic function107. The state power of the proletariat is not established for its own sake, but as a means with which to transform capitalist production into communist production. Proletarian state power cannot operate as a management of the stable reproduction of capitalist production relations without a transformation of its class character108. The proletarian class content of the mechanism of dictatorship is not given by the democratic approval of a class, let alone a popular majority, though these are favourable factors. It is given by the use of this mechanism to implement an economic transformation which fulfils the historic necessity of the abolition of capital. Acceptance of this outlook is the dividing line between petty bourgeois democracy and revolutionary Marxism.

A majority vote in a workers’ organisation for the perpetuation of bourgeois democracy makes that organisation an instrument of bourgeois, not proletarian, dictatorship. This is evident simply from Kautsky’s brief discussion of the difference between democracy and proletarian class rule in the polemic with Bernstein reviewed above. The repression of the majority in such an organisation on the other hand would be a policy of proletarian dictatorship. The extent to which such a policy would be sustainable depends upon the balance of forces and is not a question of principle. Marxists defend democracy insofar as it offers an opportunity to accumulate forces towards the abolition of capital. The freedom of the majority to ratify the continuation of the wage relation is a freedom which they are duty bound to repress as soon as this becomes materially possible. The legitimacy of the communist revolution is given by historical necessity, not the results of any referendum. To defend universal democratic forms against revolutionary necessity is to join the counter-revolutionary camp.The class democracy of the proletariat on the other hand, is inextricable not from the defence of universal rights but from the continuity of the struggle to transform the production relations.

During the period 1917–20, when the proletariat is driven by the dynamic of civil war to advance towards the abolition of capital, democracy is maintained within the class party109. It is only when imperialist encirclement internationally and the petty bourgeoisie domestically forces a retreat to the management of capital that proletarian democracy is also restricted110. The ban on factions at the 10th congress of the RCP(B) was the necessary counterpart to the concession of freedom to the petty bourgeois majority111. It is in the bourgeois environment of the NEP that the Stalinist apparatus regime within the party finds its economic base. And when this apparatus is driven by Soviet state interests to embark on statist industrialisation it does so in a way which carefully avoids disrupting the base of its own power in the reproduction of capitalist production relations112.

The only possibility for the Soviet Union to organise a sustainable transition to communist natural economy without the “distortions” of the period of War Communism was to be found in the further advance of the international revolution. However, it was only War Communism with its elimination of commodity-economy which could provide a stable base for the preservation of the dictatorship of the proletariat113. An ideological precondition for any renewed proletarian offensive a century later is to defend this fact against the bourgeois and centrist distortions which attack the legacy of the most advanced expression of proletarian dictatorship in history, Here, the largely forgotten work of Soviet economic planner Lev Kritsman, is of great help in defining the basis of discussion.

According to Kritsman, it is precisely the violent repression of commodity and money relations which allows the proletarian revolution to express its “inner tendency”114. War Communism was not, as philistines superficially assess it, merely a “stage” forced on the revolution by external conditions115. Nor was it in any way equivalent to the command economy of the imperialist states during the world war116. On the contrary it was an attempt to begin the transition to socialism, and as such an anticipation of the future in the present117. The proletarian revolution abolishes fetishism by abolishing commodity relations, and with War Communism this abolition began to be implemented in practice118. It is Kritsman’s views which are in continuity with Marx’s thought and with Marxist orthodoxy prior to the October Revolution119.

With the NEP, the national popular aspect of the Russian Revolution crept into the foreground with only the Left Opposition articulating the dominant term of Leninism as workers’ power and not the “worker-peasant alliance”120. The NEP, supported by national-popular-market socialists like Bukharin and Gramsci, became the touchstone for revisionism that it remains today. For these elements, the elimination of wage labour was a utopia in the face of the need to carry out a modernisation of the bourgeois nation state. Bolshevism was degraded into a Jacobin struggle to enlighten agrarian backwardness, whose protagonist was not the working class but the amorphous popular masses. It was a question of completing the bourgeois revolution for its own sake, no longer as a part of a proletarian revolution which was postponed to the indefinite future.

The essence of the proletarian revolution is simple: the elimination of commodity economy and the establishment of a natural economy centrally planned by the proletarian system of class organisations. This was accomplished halfway by the revolutionary proletariat in the USSR between 1918–20. An accomplishment which remains the high point of human history. Once this essence is no longer posed as the immediate task, the dictatorship of the proletariat tends inexorably to become a dictatorship of the bourgeoisie. It is impossible for the managerial system of a bourgeois economy to retain a proletarian character. The political superstructure does not float in the clouds above the economic base. It either hastens to transform the latter or is itself transformed. The proletariat cannot constitute its political dictatorship and then postpone indefinitely the full realisation of its economic dictatorship without becoming a bourgeois dictatorship in the process.

All the questions of political form, of party and mass democracy, of collective or individual management are subordinate to the question of economic content. Abolition or preservation of capitalist production? With the NEP the Soviet Union was forced into submission to the latter course. This had its immediate impact on the international movement with the theorisation of the bloc of four classes in China and the tendency towards a national liberation front in Germany. Compelled to implement capitalist development internally the Soviet Union could not but tend towards reversing the relation of priority between the proletarian and the democratic revolution internationally. From this point on, however, “left” the form taken by Soviet policy. it was the leftism of anti-feudal and anti-imperialist, not anti-capitalist revolution.

In the years of NEP the Soviet party began its transformation from a proletarian workers party orientated towards the destruction of capital into a bourgeois workers party operating as a broker of labour within capital. It is noteworthy that Kautsky early on described the preconditions of such a transformation. Near the close of his work The Agrarian Question he details the possibility of a “culture state”, a state in which “considerable political power on the part of the proletariat” coexists together with “uninterrupted continuation of the capitalist mode of production”121.

In such a state production would increasingly be carried out by “proletarian state monopoly” which would not however be socialist because it would serve “commodity production” and not “immediate production for society’s needs”122. Kautsky sensibly added that that the two preconditions of such a state (proletarian power and continued capitalist production) are “...virtually mutually exclusive or at any event could only coexist for a short time”123.

With Stalin the protracted existence of the “culture state” was ensured through the physical elimination of the proletarian vanguard and a universalization of the commodity producing state monopoly Kautsky predicted124. The result was a historically unprecedented form of the bourgeois state premised off a monopoly of power in the hands of the labour bureaucracy. For this bureaucracy socialism was no longer the negation but the indefinite perpetuation of commodity production and by extension of a democracy above classes125. The affirmation of the universal democracy of atomised citizens was imposed by terror.. Just as it was by Robespierre, who as the Democratic Centralists noted also turned his fire against the nascent proletarian left of his day126.

However, the Stalinist utopia of a workers' state within capital was no more capable of fulfilling an independent historic role than the Jacobin utopia of petty commodity production before it. Like the Jacobins the Stalinists could only advance the bourgeois revolution whose own internal dynamic would supersede them. The bourgeois workers’ states both crystallised a qualitative advance for labour in the quantitative balance between the classes within capital and decisively blocked the qualitative transformation of capital itself.

In that context an unqualified demand of democracy for all could only aid the acceleration of the ongoing counter revolutionary process127. Just as the unqualified demand to end the dictatorship of Robespierre only accelerated the counter-revolutionary process launched by Robespierre himself128. Proletarian anti-Stalinism does not fault Stalinism for allowing too little bourgeois freedom but on the contrary for defending bourgeois freedom as the political expression of a bourgeois socialism129.

Today, to fault Stalinism for dictatorship and terror and not for the class content of that dictatorship which could play only a bourgeois revolutionary and not a proletarian role is to take sides with imperialist reaction. It is to align with the Directory against Robespierre. Communists on the other hand condemn Stalin for his reactionary role in relation to the proletarian revolution while recognising his progressive role in relation to the democratic revolution. We don’t fault Stalin for “failing” to fight fascism. On the contrary he brought this fight to a victorious conclusion. We fault him for defending bourgeois democracy against the proletariat. We don’t condemn Stalin for collectivisation or for the elimination of semi-feudal remnants in Eastern Europe. We condemn him for upholding the program of national popular democracy against the program of international proletarian dictatorship.

A workers’ state engaged in managing the stable reproduction of the wage relation and not its gradual abolition is by definition a form of the bourgeois state. This class character is given by the economic content of its task, not the more or less dictatorial or democratic structure of its political form. The defence of the bourgeois workers’ states is given by their role as a crystallisation of the conquests of the workers movement within capital. Only a fool would refrain from defending the workers’ rights codified in the NLRA because the NLRA is at the same time a means through which the bourgeoisie exercise its dictatorship. With the Stalinist states the same principle applies.

Stalin’s bourgeois revolutionary regime fought to secure a place for labour within capital while suppressing any tendency towards the abolition of capital itself130. Just as the Committee of Public Safety both imposed the maximum and ruthlessly repressed strikes, Stalin defended both the “proletarian state monopoly” and the commodity character of its product.. The centrist dictatorship he established like the governments led by Second International parties in the West was not a “distortion” of proletarian dictatorship but its negation.

8: Conclusion

To us the main feature in society is the dictatorship of the ruling class. To us the masses are not citizens but commodities, bought and sold for wages in the labour market. To us society is not composed of free units, but of classes with their antagonisms. And in the struggle of classes the only thing that counts is POWER.131 William Paul in British communist journal, The Call, July 29, 1920

The above discussion makes clear that for Marxists democracy is not an end but like dictatorship a means towards the implementation of the communist program. To claim loyalty to universal democratic norms and not class criteria is to disarm the proletariat in relation to an enemy who will never make the same concession. Moreover, the fetishism of universal democracy operates as the politico-ideological expression of an economic base constituted by free and equal commodity owners.

On this basis we can understand the current popularity of “democratic socialism” as expressing a utopian evasion on two levels:

Firstly it functions as an evasion of the reality of political struggle. Which class will exercise state power is never determined by majority vote but by the material balance of organised forces. A favourable balance of such forces may or may not be ratified by the majority vote of either a universal or a class exclusive electoral body at a given time. Regardless, to see the result of the vote and not the balance of forces as the determining factor is to fall victim to democratic metaphysics in theory and to the violence of the counter-revolution in practice.

Secondly it reduces socialism to a pre-Marxist idealism which attempts not to overcome but merely to finally realise in practice the ideals of the bourgeois revolution. The socialist objective becomes the full actualisation of the universality of abstract freedom and equality. This is the unity of democratic and market socialist ideology as the extreme left of the bourgeois political spectrum. Democratic fetishism on the political level is the ideological mode of appearance of continued commodity fetishism on the economic level. It is no accident that insofar as democratic socialists refer to the Soviet experience it is to applaud its bourgeois revolutionary aspect as expressed in either the NEP or the Stalinist ideology of popular democracy. The proletarian aspect which found its peak in War Communism is seen as either a dangerous utopia or an unfortunate reflection of unfavourable circumstances. Today when the bourgeois revolution has reached its limit with the world historic victory of the national liberation movements such an appeal to bourgeois revolutionary ideals has lost all progressive content.

Therefore in order to recover Marxism as both a strategic project for the overthrow of the existing order and an emancipatory critique of that order it is necessary to repudiate democratic ideology. We must reject any appeal to democratic universalism because democratic universalism is the mystified self image of the “universal prostitution” of modernity. So long as we pay homage to the former we will not escape the latter. Just as Christianity masked feudal exploitation making blasphemy against God a duty for the most principled bourgeois revolutionaries so the class function of democratic ideology requires proletarians to commit sacrilege against the rights of Man and the Citizen. We defend not the rights of all but the exclusive dictatorship of a class as a necessary means of transforming the relations of production. A transformation which is the only means of accomplishing:

...the limitation of necessary labor through the gathering of those capable of working and through the most extended application of labor-saving machinery and methods. In this way the necessary labor which cannot be free but must be socially regulated can be reduced to a minimum for all and to all a sufficient time assured of freedom, for free artistic and scientific activity, for free enjoyment of life.132

This is the concrete freedom whose realisation demands the ruthless repression of the abstract freedom of commercial society.

Works Cited

Citations of texts in HTML page format on Marxists Internet Archive and elsewhere are not included below as they are immediately accessible through hyperlinks in the endnotes. The Lawrence and Wishart Marx-Engels Collected Works have been cited above as MECW.

  1. Anonymous, Salus populi solus rex. calculated for the hopefull recovery of the considerate royalist, from the dangerous infection of the slie sophistry of Iudge Ienkings: in his late legend, published to perswade the people into a voluntary slavery, and obliged servitude to the Kings pleasure: most irrationally asserting, that the King is principium, caput, & finis Parliamenti. That the Parliament hath a power over our lives, liberties, laws, and goods, according to the known laws of the land. London; 1648.

  2. Anonymous, Der Sozialdemkratische “Zukunftstaat”: Verhandlungen des Deutschen Reichstags am 31.Januar, 3., 4., 6., und 7. Februar 1893: Veröffentlicht nach dem offiziallen stenographischen Bericht, Verlag der Expedition des “Vorwärts” Berliner Volksblatt, Berlin, 1893.

  3. Brailsford, H.N, The Levellers and the English revolution : edited and prepared for publication by Christopher Hill. Stanford University Press, Stanford, 1961.

  4. Buonarroti, Philippe. and Bronterre O'Brien, James, Buonarroti's History of Babeuf's Conspiracy for Equality. H. Hetherington, London, 1836.

  5. Burnham, James, The Peoples’ Front: The New Betrayal. Pioneer Publishers, New York, 1937.

  6. Canale, Joseph, P, American Dictators: Committees for Public Safety During the American Revolution, 1775–1784, Binghamton University. State University of New York, 2014.

  7. Corney, Frederick, Trotsky’s Challenge: The ‘Literary Discussion’ of 1924 and the Fight for the Bolshevik Revolution, Brill, Leiden, 2015.

  8. Davis, R.W., The Industrialisation of Soviet Russia 3: The Economy in Turmoil. 1929–1930, Macmillan Press Ltd, London, 1998.

  9. de Wilde, Marc, Roman dictatorship in the French Revolution, History of European Ideas, 47:1, 140–157, 2021.

  10. Kautsky, Karl, Der Parlamentarismus, die Volksgesetzgebung und die Sozialdemokratie, Dietz, Stuttgart, 1893.

  11. Kautsky, Karl, Bernstein und das sozialdemokratische Programm; eine Antikritik, Dietz, Stuttgart, 1899.

  12. Kautsky, Karl, Die statistische Methode der Prophezeiung, Die neue Zeit : Wochenschrift der deutschen Sozialdemokratie. 27.1908–1909, 1. (1909), 11, 400–402.

  13. Kautsky, Karl, The Agrarian Question: In Two Volumes, Zwan Publications, London, 1988.

  14. Kritsman, Lev, Die Heroische Periode der Grossen Russischen Revolution: Ein Versuch der Analyse des Sogenannten “Kriegskommunismus”, Verlag fur Literaur und Politik, Vienna, 1929.

  15. Lenin, V.I, Marxism on the State: Preparatory Material for the Book The State and Revolution, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1972.

  16. Lefebvre, Georges, The Thermidorians and the Directory: Two Phases of the French Revolution, Random House, New York, 1964.

  17. Lefebvre, Georges, Napoleon, Routledge, New York, 2011.

  18. Macchiavelli, Niccolò, Discourses on Livy, Translation by Harvey C. Mansfield and Nathan Tarcov. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1996.

  19. Palmer, R.R., Twelve who Ruled: The Year of Terror in the French Revolution, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 2017.

  20. Rahe, Paul, Republics Ancient and Modern, Volume II: New Modes and Orders in Early Modern Political Thought, University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, 1994.

  21. Rahe, Paul, Against Throne and Altar: Machiavelli and Political Theory Under the English Republic, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2008.

  22. Rose, R.B, Gracchus Babeuf : The First Revolutionary Communist, Stanford University Press, Stanford, 1978.

  23. Rossiter, Clinton, Constitutional Dictatorship: Crisis Government in the Modern Democracies, Routledge, London, 2017.

  24. Rowan, Herbert, H., Princes of Orange: The Stadholders in the Dutch Republic, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1990.

  25. Schiavone, Aldo, I saperi della città, in Schiavone, Aldo and Momigliano, Arnaldo, Storia di Roma: I Roma in Italia, Giulio Einaudi editore, Turin, 1988.

  26. Soboul, Albert, The French Revolution, 1789–1999: from the storming of the Bastille to Napoleon, Vintage Books, New York, 1975.

  27. Sojuz Kollektivistov, Dokumenty “demokratičeskih centralistov” (20–e gg.), self published electronic resource, 2007.

  28. Trotsky, Leon, The Defence of Terrorism: Terrorism and Communism a Reply to Karl Kautsky, George Allen & Unwin Ltd, London, 1935.

  29. Trotsky, Leon, The Struggle against Fascism in Germany, Pathfinder Press, New York, 1971.

  30. Trotsky, Leon, The Challenge of the Left Opposition (1923–25), Pathfinder Press, New York, 1975.

  31. van Nierop, Henk, F.K, Treason in the Northern Quarter: War, Terror, and the Rule of Law in the Dutch Revolt, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 2009.

  32. van Gelderen, Martin, The Political Thought of the Dutch Revolt 1555–1590, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1992.

  33. Venturi, Franco, The End of the Old Regime in Europe, 1776–1789:I. The Great States of the West, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1991.

  34. Waldenburg, Merek, Il papa rosso Karl Kautsky, Editori Riuniti, Rome, 1980.

  35. Wilson, Mark,B., The Needed Man: The Evolution, Abandonment, and Resurrection of the Roman Dictatorship, City University of New York (CUNY), 2017.

  36. Woloch, Iser, Jacobin Legacy: The Democratic Movement under the Directory, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1970.

  37. Zimmerman, Reinhard, The Law of Obligations: Roman Foundations of the Civilian Tradition, Jutta & Co, Cape Town, 1990.


  1. “Democracy” and Dictatorship (marxists.org). Emphasis ours. 

  2. First Congress of the Communist International (marxists.org

  3. https://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1922/red-white/ch08.htm

  4. "At all events, on the crucial day and the day after that, our only adversary will be collective reaction centred round pure democracy and this, I think, ought never to be lost from view.”
    –Engels to Bebel 11–12 December 1884. MECW. 47, p 234. 

  5. Socialists Should Take the Right Lessons From the Russian Revolution (jacobinmag.com). 

  6. The Capitalist State and Socialist Strategy - Rampant Magazine

  7. MarxistUnity

  8. Points of Unity | Central Ohio Revolutionary Socialists (corsrev.org). 

  9. https://www.leftvoice.org/revolt-and-revolution-in-the-21st-century/

  10. Trotsky 1935, p 36–41.  

  11. In the absence of merger with scientific socialism the working class dissolves politically into the petty bourgeois. See Kautsky’s observations cited by Waldenburg 1980, p 265. This was fully in conformity with the assessment of Engels. 

  12. “Equality and freedom are thus not only respected in exchange based on exchange values but, also, the exchange of exchange values is the productive, real basis of all equality and freedom. As pure ideas they are merely the idealized expressions of this basis; as developed in juridical, political, social relations, they are merely this basis to a higher power.”
    –Grundrisse 05 (marxists.org). 

  13. Trotsky 1935, p 38. 

  14. Zimmerman 1992, 82-83. Schiavone 1988, 553–54. 

  15. Translation following Mansfield & Tarcov, 1996.  

  16. See Wilson 2017, p 95, 257. The discussion in this section relies heavily on Wilson’s work. 

  17. Rossiter 2017, p 27. 

  18. Rossiter 2017, xix. 

  19. See the discussion in the famous 1923 “Platform of the 46” which distinguishes between the "...regime of the dictatorship of a faction within the party, which was in fact created after the Tenth Congress…" and the "workers' dictatorship" in general. The former is identified as a temporary measure which has “outlived itself”.
    –Trotsky, 1975, p 399–400. 

  20. Wilson 2017, p 222. 

  21. Though it is worth noting that collegiality considered a defining feature of proletarian collectivism by Kritsman (Kritisman 1929, p 133) has a Roman parallel in the "...crucial Republican value of plural authority" (Wilson 2017, p 406). 

  22. By 1921 the Russian Communist Party incorporated more then a half million members (Kritsman, 1929, p 128). 

  23. Rossiter 2017, p 4. 

  24. Cited in Canale 2014, p 86. 

  25. Rowan 1990, p 19. 

  26. Van Nierop 2009, p 96, 147–148. 

  27. Ibid p 55, 79. 

  28. Van Gelderen 1992 p 175–76, 201. 

  29. In fact Mably was concerned by the post war perpetuation of such a strong executive. See citation in de Wilde 2021, p 155. 

  30. "While the former revolutions were uprisings of the populace against the government, the coming revolution with the exception perhaps of Russia will have more of the character of the struggle of one portion of the people against another, and therein, and only therein, resemble more the struggles of the Reformation than the type of the French Revolution."-Karl Kautsky: Social Revolution (Vol.1, Part 3) (marxists.org). 

  31. Van Nierop 2009, p 51. 

  32. Note with regard to the sentiment expressed in the title of this pamphlet Spinoza’s similar observation in the Tractatus theologico-politicus: “Quum hoc ita sit, sequitur, salutem populi summam esse legem, cui omnes, tam humanae quam divinae, accommodari debent.” (XIX:24 emphasis added). 

  33. Anonymous 1648, p 18. 

  34. Brailsford 1961, p 258, 375, 557, 568 etc. On the pervasive character of censorship in republican England see also the sources cited in Rahe 2008, 198. 

  35. Brailsford 1961 p 259. 

  36. Although Cromwell secured the expulsion of White from the Council of War for his excessive honesty, Leveller leader John Lilburne was later to allege that Cromwell’s associate Huge Peters was to inform him in private conversation that "...there is no law in this nation but the sword, . . . neither any law or government in the world but what the sword gave and set up," (Ibid p 553). Lilburne’s indignantly legalistic reply to this statement of fact is more than sufficient as an explanation of why he and not his guest was the one incarcerated. 

  37. Canale 2014, p 3. Canale should be commended for a scrupulously realistic treatment of the inextricable unity of dictatorship and democracy in the historical process. Unfortunately most contemporary “Marxists” are far below his level. 

  38. Ibid p 8, 14, 46. Committees also carried out book burnings (ibid p 120) and prohibited the printing of subversive literature (in one case a refutation of Paine’s Common Sense ibid p 98–99). So much for “free speech absolutism”. 

  39. Ibid p 80. 

  40. Ibid p 110, 141–43. The fact of revolutionary responsibility for the destruction of the town was suppressed by the new state till 1823. 

  41. Fascinating accounts of the anti-feudal impetus of the American Revolution can be found in Rahe 1994 and Venturi 1991. 

  42. Soboul 1975, p 195, 267, 340. Woloch 1970, p 10, 252–5. Lefebvre 1964, p 453. Lefebvre 2011, p 54. Palmer 2005, p 27, 128. 

  43. "Only in 1793 and 1794 was democracy, in the sense of universal suffrage and increased economic equality, part of the ideal of the men in power...the revolutionary methods now used to overthrow democratic society were once used to bring it into being."
    –Palmer 2005, p 386–7. 

  44. The Holy Family by Marx and Engels (marxists.org

  45. As Soboul puts it a “sudden mutation”. Soboul 1975, p 18. 

  46. Buonarroti 1836, p 139. 

  47. Ibid, p 38. 

  48. Ibid, 90–91. For the direction of agitation specifically towards the “poor and working classes” see Ibid p 98. 

  49. Ibid, p 232. 

  50. Ibid, p 106. See also Rose 1978, p 235–39. 

  51. MECW 49.271. 

  52. “The concept of a socialist society as a realm of equality is a one-sided French concept deriving from the old 'liberty, equality, fraternity', a concept which was justified in that, in its own time and place, it signified a phase of development, but which, like all the one-sided ideas of earlier socialist schools, ought now to be superseded, since they produce nothing but mental confusion, and more accurate ways of presenting the matter have been discovered.”
    –Engels to August Bebel. 18-28 March 1875. MECW 45.64. 

  53. “The brute believes in the future 'state of democracy'! Secretly that means sometimes constitutional England, sometimes the bourgeois United States, sometimes wretched Switzerland. “it” has no concept of revolutionary politics.”
    –Marx to Engels. 10 August 1869. MECW 43.343. These sharp words on Wilhelm Liebknecht could be applied with equal justice to the opportunists who today in not only fully developed but decadent capitalism whine for constitutional reform and constituent assemblies. 

  54. Marx to Engels. 25 February 1859. MECW 40.393. 

  55. “It is so characteristic of Robespierre that, at a time when it was a crime punishable by the guillotine to be 'constitutional', as defined by the Assemblée of 1789, all of its laws directed against the workers remained in force.”
    –Marx to Engels. 30 January 1865. MECW 42.71. 

  56. Engels to Marx. 26 September 1851. MECW 38.470. 

  57. Marx to Engels. 23 February 1852. MECW 39.44. 

  58. “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; 3. that this dictatorship itself constitutes no more than a transition to the abolition of all classes and to a classless society.”
    –Marx to Weydemeyer. 5 March 1852. MECW 39.65. 

  59. The dictatorship of the proletariat – Joseph Weydemeyer (libcom.org). 

  60. The State and Revolution — Chapter 2 (marxists.org). 

  61. Engels to Weydemeyer. 12 April 1853. MECW 39.308. Emphasis ours

  62. Marx to Engels. 7 August 1862. MECW 41.400. 

  63. Marx to Engels. 10 September 1862. MECW. 41.416. 

  64. Engels to Marx. 5 November 1862. MECW 41.423. 

  65. Engels to Marx. 15 November 1862. MECW. 41.428. 

  66. Engels to Marx. 5 November 1862. MECW 41.423. 

  67. Marx to Liebknecht. 6 April 1871. MECW 44.128. 

  68. Ibid. 

  69. Ibid. 

  70. For Marx’s view of Machiavelli see Marx to Engels. 25 September 1857. MECW 40.186. As for Hobbes: “As Hobbes said: The equality of men is proved by this ... that the smallest man, the weakest man, can in one way or other kill the tallest, the biggest one."
    –Marx to Thomas Allsop. 1 January 1878. MECW 45.292. Here was a formulation on “equality” with which Marx could heartily agree! 

  71. Engels to Terzaghi. 14–15 January 1872. MECW 44.181. 

  72. Marx to Friedrich Adolph Sorge. 19 October 1877. MECW 45.283. Engels to Friedrich Adolph Sorge. 27 February 1874. MECW 45.9. 

  73. "...so long as the other classes, especially the capitalist class, still exists, so long as the proletariat struggles with it (for when it attains government power its enemies and the old organization of society have not yet vanished), it must employ forcible means, hence governmental means. It is itself still a class and the economic conditions from which the class struggle and the existence of classes derive have still not disappeared and must forcibly be either removed out of the way or transformed, this transformation process being forcibly hastened...the proletariat, instead of struggling sectionally against the economically privileged class, has attained a sufficient strength and organization to employ general means of coercion in this struggle."
    –Conspectus of Bakunin's Statism and Anarchy (marxists.org

  74. “As to the self-determination of human beings, I could only have said that, viewed in this general way, it makes no sense to me."
    –Engels to Gustav Rasch. End of November 1876. MECW.45.124. This was Engels response to claims by Rasch that the two had discussed “human rights” and the “autonomy of nations” (MECW.45.484). 

  75. For the need to allow internal criticism in German Social Democracy see Engels to Kautsky. 23 February 1891.MECW.49.135 and Engels to Bebel. 1–2 May 1891. MECW 49.181. Marx and Engels did not fetishise authority any more then they did democracy. The evaluated the relation between the two in accordance with a concrete analysis of what methods were necessary to advance the interests of the proletariat in a given situation. 

  76. Engels to Gerson Trier. 18 December 1889. MECW 48.425. 

  77. Ibid, p 424. 

  78. Engels to Bernstein. 24 March 1884. MECW 47.119. 

  79. Engels to Paul Lafargue. 6 March 1894. MECW 50.301. 

  80. “Zukunftstaat” 1893 p 123. 

  81. Lenin: Dead Chauvinism and Living Socialism (marxists.org). 

  82. Waldenburg 1980 provides a useful summary of his activity. 

  83. As Kautsky observed early on “theory” seeks the “differentiating aspect” while “practical politics” cannot develop without “occasional compromises” (Ibid p 261). Therefore, “theoretically” he could denounce revisionism year after year while practically evading any struggle to push the revisionists out of the party. Such a dichotomy between theory and practice is of course nonsense. 

  84. Lenin: Two Worlds (marxists.org). 

  85. In a 1904 letter to Charles Rappoport, Kautsky lamented that the struggle with revisionism forced him to endlessly repeat the basic principles of Marxism (Ibid p 509). The Second International collapsed not because there was insufficient repetition of these principles but rather a fearful evasion of their practical implementation in the purge of revisionist elements. 

  86. As Lenin noted in an April 1914 to Inessa Armand: “The Germans in fact have two parties” (Ibid p 658). However, unlike the Bolsheviks they lacked the courage to admit this fact and act accordingly. Hence their world historic political failure. 

  87. If Lenin could fairly criticise Kautsky’s omissions and distortions in his polemic against Bernstein’s capitulation (The State and Revolution – Chapter 6 (marxists.org)) contemporary democratic socialists simply take Bernstein’s positions as their own. 

  88. Engels to Van Patten. 18 April 1883 MECW.47.10. 

  89. Waldenburg 1980, p 196, 463. 

  90. Ibid p 144–45, p 195. 

  91. Ibid p 196, p 451. 

  92. Kautsky to Bernstein 8 September 1896. Cited in ibid p 464. Emphasis ours

  93. Lenin 1972 p 33. We can no longer wage the struggle for bourgeois democratic rights within the strategic framework of struggle for a democratic republic. 

  94. Waldenburg 1980, p 142. 

  95. Kautsky 1899 p 170–71. Emphasis ours

  96. Ibid p 172. 

  97. The State and Revolution – Chapter 6 (marxists.org). 

  98. Waldenburg 1980, p 309. 

  99. Kautsky 1893, p 42. 

  100. Burnham 1937, p 28. 

  101. As the Executive Committee of the Comintern asserted to the IWW in 1920: "Soviet Russia is on strike against the whole capitalist world. The social revolution is a general strike against the whole capitalist system. The dictatorship of the proletariat is the strike committee of the social revolution."
    –See The IWW at Philadelphia (marxists.org). 

  102. Kautsky 1899, p 194. We might add that Luxemburg, so often considered by the philistines of vulgar democracy and humanitarian kitsch as one of their own, saw nothing to object to in Kautsky’s formulation here. See https://rosaluxemburgwerke.de/buecher/band-1-1/seite/552

  103. Kautsky 1909, p 402. 

  104. Trotsky’s later judgment of the pre war Kautsky as the left wing of reformism ( Trotsky 1971, p 143) is inextricable from his view that “The proletariat cannot attain power within the formal limits of bourgeois democracy” (Trotsky 1971, p 158). These assessments were the product of the most advanced period to date of the proletarian class struggle. The demand to overturn them is a cry for regression. 

  105. For a summary of Kautsky’s support of the vote for war credits see Waldenburg 1980, p 701. The leaders of the European proletariat democratically resolved to support the mutual extermination of their own supporters and in the interests of submission to the majority even Liebknecht aligned with imperialism. A great moment in the history of democratic socialism. 

  106. https://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1922/red-white/ch08.htm. Emphasis ours

  107. As Marx put it in 1874: “It can however only use such economic means as abolish its own character as salariat, hence as class.” https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1874/04/bakunin-notes.htm

  108. “The political rule of the producer cannot co-exist with the perpetuation of his social slavery.” The Civil War in France (marxists.org). 

  109. As Malle points out at the beginning of his survey of the period "The Party Congress debates...remained quite alive even during the most acute phases of the civil war, bearing no analogy with the miserable conformism of the Stalinist period…" (Malle 1985, p 2). 

  110. As Lenin said of the turn to NEP: “If, during an incredibly difficult retreat, when everything depends on preserving proper order, anyone spreads panic—even from the best of motives—the slightest breach of discipline must be punished severely, sternly, ruthlessly;” Eleventh Congress Of The R.C.P.(B.) March 27–April 2, 1922 (marxists.org). The retreat to NEP was so devastating its implementation required the muzzling of the class vanguard. Those who cite such a tragedy as a positive example for the future indicate clearly what side of the class line they stand on. 

  111. For the corrosive effect of the NEP on proletarian democracy (the necessary mass base of the dictatorship) see Trotsky 1971 p 220–21. 

  112. "I have in mind the Leftist chatter current among a section of our functionaries to the effect that Soviet trade is a superseded stage; that it is necessary to organise the direct exchange of products; that money will soon be abolished, because it has become mere tokens; that it is unnecessary to develop trade, since the direct exchange of products is knocking at the door. It must be observed that this Leftist petty-bourgeois chatter, which plays into the hands of the capitalist elements who are striving to sabotage the expansion of Soviet trade, is current not only among a section of our "Red professors," but also among certain of our trading personnel."
    –Stalin in 1934 (Report to the Seventeenth Party Congress on the Work of the Central Committee of the C.P.S.U.(B.) (marxists.org). According to Stalin money would continue to exist till the “first stage of communism” was “completed” (ibid). For a brief review of the Stalinist repression of mass attempts to break down capitalist organisation of production during the First Five Year plan see Filtzer 1986, p 102–7. 

  113. As a discussion paper of the Democratic Centralist tendency later summarised the transition to NEP: “The main classes in the country are the proletariat and the peasantry. Their participation in the revolution determined its dual character as a proletarian and simultaneously a bourgeois-peasant revolution and in its turn the dual character of the ACP and the soviet state. In the first years of the revolution the proletariat dominated party and state policy, proletarian interests prevailed, the peasantry in its struggle for land was forced to follow the proletariat, mostly restraining itself, but after the defeat of the armed counter-revolution the peasantry vigorously demanded the satisfaction of its bourgeois interests (the surge of peasant revolts in 1920–21), the proletariat was forced to retreat and the introduction of the NEP was conceded to the peasantry.”
    –Sojuz Kollektivistov 2007, p 17. Emphasis ours

  114. Kritsman 1929, p 113. 

  115. Ibid, p 114. 

  116. Ibid, p 114. 

  117. Ibid, p 123. 

  118. Ibid, p 134. 

  119. For Marx’s views see the citations above. According to Kautsky ``whoever thinks seriously of replacing capitalist with social ownership of the means of production must necessarily abolish commodity production” (cited in Waldenburg 1980, p 444). Commodity production under the dictatorship of the proletariat is an acute condition which is either quickly cured or results in the death of the patient. 

  120. The pro peasant thread running throughout the contributions to the 1924 anti-Trotsky campaign (collected in Corney 2015) is instructive. 

  121. Kautsky 1988, p 437. 

  122. Ibid, p 436. 

  123. Ibid. 

  124. "Once we have a monetarised economy, we also have commodities. All the categories remain, but have acquired a new character."
    –Stalin, January 1941. Stalin's Conversations with Soviet Economists (revolutionarydemocracy.org). The rapid collapse beneath the waves of “normal” capitalism of the system Stalin worked tirelessly to create is eloquent historical proof that even world historic individuals cannot assign a “new character” to the same old “categories". For a review of Stalin’s falsification of Soviet economic doctrine during the First Five Year Plan which formed the premise of the assertion above see Davis 1998, 154–78. 

  125. “Unlike bourgeois constitutions, the draft of the new Constitution of the U.S.S.R. proceeds from the fact that there are no longer any antagonistic classes in society; that society consists of two friendly classes, of workers and peasants... all citizens have equal rights. It is not property status, not national origin, not sex, nor office, but personal ability and personal labour, that determines the position of every citizen in society.”
    –On the Draft Constitution of the U.S.S.R (marxists.org). 

  126. Sojuz Kollektivistov 2007, p 10–12. 

  127. The “democratic revolutions” of 1989, far from opening space for “real socialism” as so many vulgar democrats imagined, inaugurated a new era of social decay. This social decay is the real content of the demand for classless freedom and equality in a period when development of productive forces has made bourgeois revolution an anachronism. 

  128. Here we must reiterate the argument made in our contribution to the first volume of Counter Attack that strictly speaking the concept of a “petty bourgeois government” is “inadmissible” (Blurred Lines: Poulantzas and the Liquidation of Marxist State Theory | Counter Attack Journal). The Jacobin regime was a stage in the consolidation of bourgeois dictatorship like the Stalinist regime which followed. The fall of both regimes meant a qualitative leap in this consolidation however much it might superficially have appeared as liberation to some on the proletarian left who endured their repression. 

  129. As Stalin said on the prospect of transitioning to communist production relations: “We have filth in our factories, but we want to go straight to communism. But who will let you in there? We are sinking in garbage and we want communism. In one large enterprise about two years ago they started breeding fowl – chicken and geese. Where does all this lead you to? Dirty people would not be allowed entry into communism. Stop being swine. And only then talk about entering communism. Engels wanted to go straight to communism. He got carried away.”
    –Stalin's Conversations with Soviet Economists (revolutionarydemocracy.org). For Stalin socialism meant the completion of the bourgeois revolution and for that no international revolution was needed. 

  130. Starting with the French Revolution the bourgeois and the proletarian revolution developed together. The waning of the former aspect is matched by the waxing of the latter. In the sequence initiated by the October Revolution the shift in the balance between the two aspects finds its expression in the phenomena of the bourgeois workers state. The proletarian aspect is not yet strong enough to finalise the overcoming of the bourgeois aspect. However, the bourgeois aspect is only able to prevail in the form of the working class as a class exercising hegemony within bourgeois society. 

  131. The Communist Unity Group (marxists.org). 

  132. Kautsky: Ethics (Chap.5b) (marxists.org). Emphasis ours