nature of "dictatorship of the proletariat"

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Alexander Roxwell
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Jan 3 2012 03:17

Good point RedEd.

slothjabber
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Jan 3 2012 13:06
Alexander Roxwell wrote:
Some of the people on this site sure do seem to be able to make a giant mess out of an argument. The fact that the people who constructed the first prototype of a "dictatorship of the proletariat" were not "Marxists" would not be a good reason for Marx to not embrace it. Unlike a great many of his modern day groupies (and evidently some of his anti-groupies) that was not one of his criteria.

The problem with the Russian Revolution was not the "totalitarian" proclivities of Lenin but the backward structure of the Russian economy in 1917. You can't have a "dictatorship of the proletariat" emerge from a dual revolution where the workers are only a tiny minority of the population no matter how much you "will" it.

The "dictatorship of the proletariat" is the rule of the whole society by the workers. This will only work when the vast majority of the people are working class.

Alexander, I think this is the second post you've made that I've substantially agreed with... though I'm a bit worried that I might be agreeing with the words not the meaning behind them.

I agree that 'the problem' was not "totalitarian proclivities" because I believe even if Lenin had been as wise as Buddha and as lovely as Joanna Lumley (who is lovely), Russia as an isolated state would still have succumbed to a brutal dictatorship; anything else is impossible without world revolution. Even if the 'Russian revolution' had instead occurred in Germany or Britain (where there were many more proletarians, in Britain certainly a majority) the 'dictatorship of the proletariat' would have succumbed to counter-revolution. The 'dictatorship of the proletariat' must be worldwide or it will succumb. Simple as that. There are no 'national revolutions'. There are just territorial expressions of the world revolution.

Mike Harman
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Jan 3 2012 14:12
slothjabber wrote:
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The problem with the Russian Revolution was not the "totalitarian" proclivities of Lenin but the backward structure of the Russian economy in 1917. You can't have a "dictatorship of the proletariat" emerge from a dual revolution where the workers are only a tiny minority of the population no matter how much you "will" it.

The "dictatorship of the proletariat" is the rule of the whole society by the workers. This will only work when the vast majority of the people are working class.

Alexander, I think this is the second post you've made that I've substantially agreed with... though I'm a bit worried that I might be agreeing with the words not the meaning behind them.

I agree that 'the problem' was not "totalitarian proclivities" because I believe even if Lenin had been as wise as Buddha and as lovely as Joanna Lumley (who is lovely), Russia as an isolated state would still have succumbed to a brutal dictatorship; anything else is impossible without world revolution. Even if the 'Russian revolution' had instead occurred in Germany or Britain (where there were many more proletarians, in Britain certainly a majority) the 'dictatorship of the proletariat' would have succumbed to counter-revolution.

This doesn't really get to the point though. Between about 1914 and 1922 there were lots and lots of major uprisings all over the world (including the UK and Germany), they, like all other major uprisings in history failed to achive a world wide revolution.

However Russia remains unique because the counter-revolution was carried out by the Bolsheviks - as opposed to say the whites militarily suppressing the Bolsheviks and cracking down themselves, or another trajectory closer to what happened in many other places in the world.

If there had been an international revolution (as opposed to a wave spread over several years and with extremely patchy success), then there might have been a greater chance of success overall. But simply saying "it couldn't have been successful" ignores the particular characteristics of failure.

Then while 'what if' is a bit useless, it doesn't follow from 'guaranteed failure given international conditions' that had there been much more favourable international conditions, that the Bolsheviks would not have been counter-revolutionary despite this.

They could still have done many of the same things (much of which started before the full onslaught of the whites and was consistent with much of their ideology as well), and have to have been overthrown by other groups (anarchists, dissidents within the Bolshevik party, left SRs or whoever).

slothjabber
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Jan 3 2012 17:18

We don't know what the Bolsheviks would have done, had revolutions succeeded elsewhere. Some people think a 'Workers' Germany' would have had to invade to oust the Bolsheviks, or another revolution begun to overthrow them; some (such as me) think that the Bolsheviks would not have been able to institute their takeover and fusion with the Russian state if the revolution had spread, or even if they had begun, would never have completed it and it could have been reversed. Perhaps in a parallel universe, the Kronstadt Commune was not crushed. In another parallel universe, the Whites, the SRs (right or left) or anyone else overthrew the Bolsheviks.

To me the thing about the Bolsheviks is that they were responding to circumstance. The notion that it was all just a sinister Marxist plot is so... illogical (in that it requires Lenin and Trotsky to have a fiendishly complex game plan and at the same time be utter idiots - in that sense it ressembles Twin Towers Truth theories) that I really can't believe it.

I think it's true, however, that given the failure of the revolution to spread, the result would be counter-revolution; even had the Bolsheviks been overthrown by the forces of the most perfect brilliance (anarchist, SR, International Kitten Army of Cool), they would have been unable to make a 'progressive go' of things. That is not to say the counter-revolution would not have different aspects but it would have happened. A revolutionary territory must expand or succumb to counter-revolution; there's no 'peaceful co-existence' possible.

Alexander Roxwell
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Jan 4 2012 02:17

The errors of the Bolsheviks were many:

(1) not realizing that what existed in Russia was not a "dictatorship of the proletariat" but rather a "dual dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry" meant that the policy of "War Communism" which was a war on the peasantry as a class was absolutely verboten. It was necessary to seek out allies amounst those political groups that represented the peasants. It was necessary to maintain the power of the Councils, both the workers councils and the more fragile peasant councils. A policy very much like the NEP, risky as it was, was the only way forward that I can see, pending the “coming” European Workers Revolution.

(2) They could not give the Ukraine to Germany as they did at Brest-Litovsk without breaking up the dual dictatorship. Of course this would have caused the Germans to invade Russia further and might have resulted in the overthrow the Bolsheviks even before the Civil War but signing away vast chunks of the breadbasket was a "choice" that was not a "choice." It might have stimulated an earlier German revolution - after all March 1918 is only a few months earlier than November 1918. We will never know.

(3) Largely driven by these earlier two catastrophic errors the Bolsheviks began to act as tho they, the political party, were indeed the rulers of Russia rather than the workers and peasants and this indeed became the case, certainly after the last of the Left SRs and anarchists were driven out of government.

(4) The goal of the Bolsheviks should have realized that their "will" to build "socialism" in Russia counted for naught and that their actual goal should have been to build something such that they could "hang on" in Russia while the European revolution progressed. It may have failed anyway and if it did the Russian Revolution would have still failed.

(5) The reason the Bolsheviks presided over the destruction of their own revolution was because they defeated all the other contenders. Remember that it was Trotsky that first advocated the five year plans and the rapid industrialization of Russia. If he had won we would still have seen the counterrevolution - tho it would have taken a different path, probably also over Trotsky's dead body but who knows.

The Russian Revolution was a gamble. They lost that gamble. If we were real historians instead of groupies defending this or that figurine from the past we might even know why. The fact that they did not just meant they were not clairvoyant.

They aren't demons (well, except for the gang around Stalin).

slothjabber
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Jan 4 2012 13:41

That's your third post that I think conatins a good deal of truth Alexander - I hope you don't take it amiss that I'm expressing my surprise, but I am surprised, as usually I don't really agree with anything you write.

I think you're wrong about Brest-Litovsk, though, if I understand your position correctly. I'm pretty much an orthodox Leninst on this one, against Trotsky, and against Bukharin and the 'Left Communists' in Russia.

Alexander Roxwell
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Jan 5 2012 01:01

It is hard not to see the signature on the Treaty of Brest Litovsk as a turning point. The Left SRs were so infuriated that a couple took a potshot at Lenin and many declared that the Bolsheviks were traitors to the revolution. It caused a real split in the Bolshevik Party with the Bukharinists going public in their opposition. I believe that if it had been left up to the Workers Councils they would have voted it down which I believe was why they "approved" the Treaty with a vote of the Party.

They were certainly in a pickle. They had no means of self defense and the population was war weary. As Lenin argued the Germans might have just rolled over them and ground them into dust. The thing is it didn't really buy them much of anything. It just "put off" the Civil War until after Germany was defeated. Trotsky built the "Red Army" from nothing after another year of starvation. I think they could have done it then. It may have benefitted Germany and Austria more by giving them access to the Ukraine's breadbasket for a year.

I think Bukharin's position of declaring "revolutionary war" with no army was ding dong. Frankly this is the one place where I would have supported Trotsky with his position of "No War / No Peace."

Making the Revolution was a big gamble. Not signing Brest-Litovsk would have been a big gamble. Looking at it from where I sit I would have taken it.

Nivel
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Jan 6 2012 08:55

My understanding is that it's a literal dictatorship in the sense that the proletariat seizes the state. However, he believed that the proletariat, being the lowest class, had no class to exploit.

Alexander Roxwell
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Jan 7 2012 02:08

An interesting point.

O.K. Let's say that the Russian state after the revolution was indeed a "dictatorship of the proletariat" and that this minority dictatorship wished to engage in the kind of "primitive accumulation" advocated by Trotsky and Preobrazhensky and ultimately carried out by Stalin.

The peasants produce all the food to feed themselves and to feed proletarians in the cities.

The proletarians in the cities produce capital goods to be reinvested in industry.

Are the peasants "exploited" ?

Who are they exploited by?

slothjabber
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Jan 7 2012 12:56

In that case they're exploited by the proletariat. Their surplus labour is being 'taxed' or demanded in tribute by the proletariat organised as a state - similar to the way the Spartans organised their state and expropriated the helots.

But, that wouldn't be 'the dictatorship of the proletriat' as envisioned by Marx.

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jura
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Jan 7 2012 13:06

And it wouldn't be exploitation in the capitalist sense, i.e. extraction of unpaid surplus-labor behind the veil of sales of labor-power.

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Ravineman
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Jan 8 2012 04:59

Well, in my opinion, the dictatorship of the proletariat is when the mass red army must protect communism in any way they can. After communism has become stable, the vanguard party can SLOWLY go away with time and eventually, the world won't need a vanguard party. This is just my opinion.

Alexander Roxwell
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Jan 8 2012 05:30

I agree with Slothjabber. It is not a "dictatorship of the proletariat" at all.

Jordan
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Jan 8 2012 06:42
revol68 wrote:
Ravineman wrote:
Well, in my opinion, the dictatorship of the proletariat is when the mass red army must protect communism in any way they can. After communism has become stable, the vanguard party can SLOWLY go away with time and eventually, the world won't need a vanguard party. This is just my opinion.

what a lovely story, did your Uncle Joe read it to you as a child?

His Uncle is the legendary Communist hero who committed all the best purges?

I'm so Jelly! My Uncle is nothing but a humble coach driver. sad

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Ravineman
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Jan 15 2012 04:34
revol68 wrote:
Ravineman wrote:
Well, in my opinion, the dictatorship of the proletariat is when the mass red army must protect communism in any way they can. After communism has become stable, the vanguard party can SLOWLY go away with time and eventually, the world won't need a vanguard party. This is just my opinion.

what a lovely story, did your Uncle Joe read it to you as a child?

never mind, I don't believe in that anymore, thanks to you guys, I am a convinced anarchist.

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Croy
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Jan 15 2012 10:56

Thats a pretty quick changing of mind. Im glad, because I was going to really take you to town with that. (sorry if thats macho)

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flaneur
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Jan 15 2012 11:17

Macho would be taking him to city.

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Ravineman
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Jan 15 2012 18:04
the croydonian anarchist wrote:
Thats a pretty quick changing of mind. Im glad, because I was going to really take you to town with that. (sorry if thats macho)

Yeah, well I had a rethinking of my views when I read the anarchist FAQs and some more stuff on this site

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Jan 15 2012 21:53
Ravineman wrote:
Yeah, well I had a rethinking of my views when I read the anarchist FAQs and some more stuff on this site

You, my good sir, belong to a very rare species of teh interwebz ecosystem.

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Red Marriott
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Jan 15 2012 22:06

Marx felt obliged to defend the Paris Commune in its time, but his initial views quoted here earlier were different from his conclusion 10 yrs later (my emph);

Quote:
"Perhaps you will point to the Paris Commune; but apart from the fact that this was merely the rising of a town under exceptional conditions, the majority of the Commune was in no sense socialist, nor could it be. With a small amount of sound common sense, however, they could have reached a compromise with Versailles useful to the whole mass of the people -- the only thing that could be reached at the time. The appropriation of the Bank of France alone would have been enough to dissolve all the pretensions of the Versailles people in terror, etc., etc." (Marx to Domela Nieuwenhuis, 1881) http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1881/letters/81_02_22.htm
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Mar 25 2013 14:56

Hi guys,

I know this thread is over a year old, but I believe it is internet etiquette to not start a new thread if you can help it.

I have always wanted to know if there are any anarchists that do not reject the term 'dictatorship of the proletariat'.

Hope someone can help me out smile

Angelus Novus
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Mar 25 2013 20:12

Everybody should reject it. It's a stupid term that can only cause confusion if used these days. Yeah, writers like Hal Draper have addressed the authoritarian distortion of the term, but honestly, I'm not going to point somebody to a work of Marxology as clarification just so I can continue using an anachronistic term from the 19th Century.

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Mar 25 2013 20:57

Helpful (not).

Angelus Novus
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Mar 27 2013 17:02

Seriously, what do you care if there are anarchists who use the term or not?

Anybody who uses the term is politically tone-deaf. It's about as helpful to mobilization as hammer and sickle symbolism.

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Mar 27 2013 17:13

We seek not the 'dictatorship of the proletariat', but the abolition of the proletariat!

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plasmatelly
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Mar 27 2013 19:34

Angelus - KK was only asking a question, and considerering how many anarchist-like people have skirted around council communism, it's not a bad question.

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Mar 27 2013 23:55
Angelus Novus wrote:
Seriously, what do you care if there are anarchists who use the term or not?

Anybody who uses the term is politically tone-deaf. It's about as helpful to mobilization as hammer and sickle symbolism.

I want to know because it is part of how I am trying to figure out the difference between anarchists and marxists. But more importantly, I am curious and like to know things.

freemind
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Mar 28 2013 17:58

As Bakunin stated or interpreted the Dictatorship of the Proletariat meant the working class dictating or controlling the means of production.

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Mar 28 2013 18:12
freemind wrote:
As Bakunin stated or interpreted the Dictatorship of the Proletariat meant the working class dictating or controlling the means of production.

But that doesn't explain the differences between the approach taken by anarchists and the approach taken by Leninists (and all its derivatives). The latter meant, by 'the dictatorship of the proletariat', the dictatorship of the party over the class. The anarchists advocated the complete opposite. The working class must liberate itself, whether or not you want to call it 'the dictatorship of the proletariat'. The phrase is a bit problematic for many reasons, as others here would and have pointed out.

slothjabber
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Mar 28 2013 19:48

There are marxists who don't believe in the 'dictatorship of the party over the class', who agree that the working class must liberate itself, but think that the working class must take control of the whole of society before abolishing property and therefore itself (because the working class can't abolish what it doesn't control).

My view is that the 'dictatorship of the proletariat' must necessarily be the final phase of capitalism, as the working class progressively collectivises the world economy. Until the revolution is successful worldwide, socialism can't be established (no socialism in one country) and if the economy is not socilist, I hold it must be capitalist. Until the revolution is successfully completed, there must be classes (hence dictatorship 'of the proletariat') because again if you could abolish classes, then that's socialism and it can't be done locally - capitalism is a world system and needs to be abolished worldwide.