MARXIST INTERNET ARCHIVE | ETIENNE BALIBAR

ETIENNE BALIBAR

ON THE DICTATORSHIP OF THE PROLETARIAT

Introduction to the English Edition

'I think that it is out of place to go around shouting that this or that is real Leninism. I was recently re-reading the first chapters of The State and Revolution [. . .] Lenin wrote: "What is now happening to Marx's theory has, in the course of history, happened repeatedly to the theories of great revolutionary thinkers [. . .] Attempts are made to convert them into harmless icons, to canonize them, so to say, and to hallow their names [. . .] while at the same time robbing the revolutionary theory of its substance." I think that this bitter quotation obliges us not to hide such-and-such of our conceptions behind the label of Leninism, but to get to the root of all questions. [. . .] For us, as Marxists, truth is what corresponds to reality. Vladimir Ilyich used to say: Marx's teaching is all-powerful because it is true. [. . .] The task of our Congress must be to seek for and to find the correct line. [. . .] Bukharin has declared here with great emphasis that what the Congress decides will be correct. Every Bolshevik accepts the decisions of the Congress as binding, but we must not adopt the viewpoint of the English constitutional expert who took literally the popular English saying to the effect that Parliament can decide anything, even to change a man into a woman.'

    N. Krupskaya-Lenin, Speech to the 14th All-Union Communist Party Congress, 1925.[1]

*       *       *

No-one and nothing, not even the Congress of a Communist Party, can abolish the dictatorship of the proletariat. That is the


[1] Quoted by J.-M. Gayman, 'Les Débats au sein du parti bolchevik (1925-1928) in Cahiers de l'Institut Maurice Thorez, 1976, p. 311.

most important conclusion of Etienne Balibar's book. The reason is that the dictatorship of the proletariat is not a policy or a strategy involving the establishment of a particular form of government or institutions but, on the contrary, an historical reality. More exactly, it is a reality which has its roots in capitalism itself, and which covers the whole of the transition period to communism, 'the reality of a historical tendency', a tendency which begins to develop within capitalism itself, in struggle against it (ch. 5). It is not 'one possible path of transition to socialism', a path which can or must be 'chosen' under certain historical conditions (e.g., in the 'backward' Russia of 1917) but can be rejected for another, different 'choice', for the 'democratic' path, in politically and industrially 'advanced' Western Europe. It is not a matter of choice, a matter of policy: and it therefore cannot be 'abandoned', any more than the class struggle can be 'abandoned', except in words and at the cost of enormous confusion.

    Balibar spells out the reasons for this conclusion against the background of the 22nd Congress of the French Communist Party, which decided to 'drop' the aim of the dictatorship of the proletariat and to substitute the objective of a 'democratic' road to socialism. His concrete references are therefore usually to arguments put forward within the French Party. But it is quite obvious that the significance of the book is much wider, not least because, in spite of the important political and economic differences separating the nations of Western Europe, many of their Communist Parties are evolving in an apparently similar ideological direction, and indeed appear to be borrowing arguments from one another in support of their new positions.

    Yet in spite of these remarks, it is likely that the very idea of a debate on the 'dictatorship of the proletariat' may appear to many outlandish in the British situation. A book that argues, against the current, for the necessity of the dictatorship of the proletariat might therefore at first sight appear to border on the bizarre. For is it not at best a sign of eccentricity to invoke such an argument in a country without even a powerful Marxist presence in the labour movement, let alone a mighty revolutionary Party, and where the traditions of parliamentary government and so-called political moderation are so overwhelmingly strong? And if -- as the French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and Japanese Communist Parties, among others, believe -- there are in any case good reasons from a

Marxist point of view for abandoning the dictatorship of the proletariat, then what possible reason could any British Communist have for disagreeing?

    But not only is the term dictatorship of the proletariat apparently old-fashioned and out-of-date; it is also distasteful. For how can the Left condemn the 'dictatorships' in Chile or Argentina, Iran or South Korea, etc., while proposing to instal its own dictatorship? And if the term dictatorship is unpleasant, its partner proletariat -- is seemingly plainly absurd (just try suggesting to a British factory worker that he is a 'proletarian' . . .). It is therefore easy to imagine the relief with which Communists in Britain, perhaps even more than elsewhere, have learned that the abandonment of the dictatorship of the proletariat is on the agenda here, too (in the land where Karl Marx 'invented' it).

    If only things were so simple! But, unfortunately, they are not; and this book indicates at least some of the reasons why. It is not intended to resolve all the questions which it raises, but to contribute towards a genuine debate on these questions. This theoretical debate must take place, and it will necessarily be international in character, though of course it cannot and must not be regarded as an opportunity for any side to interfere in the decisions of another, foreign Communist Party.

    In spite of the major differences distinguishing the States of Western Europe, it is impossible, as I pointed out, not to have noticed that their Communist Parties have in many cases recently come to similar conclusions about the need to modify certain practical and theoretical positions which they have previously defended. This phenomenon has been dubbed as the birth of 'Euro-communism', for reasons which are perhaps not as transparent as they might seem. In any case, these Parties have in general now taken up positions which have brought them into conflict with the Soviet Union on a number of important points, some concerning questions of 'freedom' and 'human rights', etc. It has therefore been possible for commentators to conclude that there are now two different brands of communism in Europe: the 'Western' and 'Eastern' varieties.[2] In consequence it has been widely assumed that any debate on fundamental questions like


[2] The actual situation is rather more complicated, since e.g. the West German and Portuguese Communist Parties are generally regarded, correctly or not, as belonging from the doctrinal standpoint to the 'Eastern' group.

that of the dictatorship of the proletariat is basically a debate between parties of the two types -- e.g. between the French and British Parties (etc.) on the one side and the Soviet and Hungarian Parties (etc.) on the other. Two remarks are called for in this connexion.

    First, this way of presenting the question suggests, wrongly, that there exist only two alternatives: either the rejection of the concept of the dictatorship of the proletariat and the adoption of a 'democratic interpretation' of socialism or uncritical acceptance of the Soviet position and of its own brand of the concept; and

    Second, it raises the question: if the time is past when there was one single model of socialism -- the Soviet model -- accepted by all Communist Parties, then must the time not also be past when there can be one, single 'Western' model of socialism -- e.g. the so-called 'Euro-communist' model -- to be not only automatically adopted by all West European Communist Parties but also, with out further debate, by every single one of their members? Is the old dogmatism to be rejected simply in order to be replaced by a new one?

    Of course, the reader might, in leafing through this book and noting the frequency of the references to and quotes from Lenin, conclude that, in any case, the author is himself actually imprisoned in a form of the old dogmatism, since he is unable to break with the nostalgic past of the Russian Revolution. He might even conclude that the book is simply an attempt to draw a direct and therefore mechanical comparison between Lenin on the one hand and present-day 'official' Communist theory on the other, to the detriment of the latter. But that is by no means the intention, for two very important reasons:

    (1) It is absolutely true, as the opponents of the dictatorship of the proletariat claim, that the world has 'moved on' since Lenin's day. It would certainly be absurd to try to find all the answers to present-day problems in Lenin. The question is, however: how has it moved? What has changed? And in this connexion what is remarkable is the extent to which the 'new' arguments deployed by these opponents of the dictatorship of the proletariat are actually very old, dating from the beginning of this century or even from the last century, and that they were already, sixty years ago, subjected to withering criticism by Lenin. That being so, it would be foolish not to refer back to Lenin's arguments.

    (2) The second reason is that Lenin was not always right, even in his own time. It is rather bizarre, in fact, to see how those very same Marxists who assure us that Lenin's arguments are now out-of-date (or, to use that special philosophical language which has got Marxists out of so many tight corners, that they have been 'transcended by history') at the same time so often assume or insist that, for his own epoch, his positions were always entirely correct -- which is of course, paradoxically, actually a way[3] of attacking Leninism by explaining that, though not false, it is of 'historically limited' relevance. Lenin is canonized, his name is hallowed in order to make it all the easier to 'rob his revolutionary theory of its substance'.

    In one of the best books published on the subject for a long time,[4] Robert Linhart has shown that Lenin never considered that he had found the final answer to every problem, was sure that on many fundamental matters he had not,[5] and changed his position on certain very important questions over a relatively short period of time. Balibar himself also gives an example (ch. 4, below): Lenin's rectification of his position on the trade unions, between 1919 and 1921. In spite of the fact that these changes of mind were obviously provoked by a study of the particular problems facing the Russian Revolution, they also bore on very general aspects of the struggle for communism, in particular the crucial problem of the definition and realization of mass democracy -- including the problem of the control of production -- that would avoid falling either into bureaucratism or into any form of anarcho-syndicalism (like the 'workers' control' advocated in 1920-21 by the so-called Workers' Opposition).[6] It is absurd to imagine that Lenin could have or would have spent so much time trying to work out answers


[3] There is another, connected but slightly different way, as we shall see.
[4] Lenine, les paysans, Taylor (Editions du Seuil, Paris, 1976).
[5] Cf. the Journal of Lenin's Duty Secretaries, XLII, 490-91 'I was with Vladimir Ilyich at about 12.30. [. . .] Dictated on the subject of (1) how Party and administrative bodies could be merged, and (2) whether it was convenient to combine educational activities with official activities.

    'At the words "And the more abrupt the revolution . . ." he stopped, repeated them several times, obviously struggling with them; asked me to help him, re-read the preceding passages, laughed and said "Here I've got completely stuck, I'm afraid, make a note of that -- stuck on this very spot!"'
[6] See for example the article 'Once again on the Trade Unions, the Current Situation and the Mistakes of Trotsky and Bukharin', Collected Works, XXXII, 70-107; and the 'Preliminary Draft Resolution of the Tenth Congress of the RCP on the Syndicalist and Anarchist Deviation in our Party', XXXII, 245-248.

to these questions without considering their general significance, beyond the immediate circumstances of the new Soviet Republic.

    The importance of this point is obvious: for if (1) Lenin's efforts were directed not simply to resolving immediate problems but also to clarifying general questions concerning the transition to communism, and if (2) he was very unsure about the answers to some of these questions, and often changed his mind and plainly contradicted himself, then it becomes impossible to conclude without further ado either that his 'successes' (his 'correct answers' -- including his insistence on the need for the dictatorship of the proletariat) are of relevance only to the special difficulties faced by 'backward' Russia or -- the same argument in another, alternative variant, which has recently revived in popularity, but this time among Communists -- that his 'failures', and in particular his supposed tendency to 'underestimate the importance of democracy' can and must be 'corrected' now by those Western European Communists lucky enough (the argument has been applied to France, and would presumably also apply, by the same title, to Britain) to live in countries 'with an old democratic tradition' (cf. ch. 4).

    The impression which this line of reasoning tries to create is that we can now speak very generally of two 'models of socialism': on the one hand the Russian model, based historically, for certain (regrettable) reasons, and in particular because of the primitive circumstances with which it had to contend, on the dictatorship of the proletariat, and on the other hand the Western model, which owing to the democratic conditions and/or possibilities existing in France, Italy and Britain, but also in Spain and Japan, etc., will be able to avoid every form of dictatorship, including the dictatorship of the proletariat. This general thesis also allows Westem Communists to re-assess their attitude to the USSR, which is now considered to be still suffering from the heritage of its primitive origins. It also 'explains', on the same basis, the Soviet government's recalcitrance on the question of the dictatorship of the proletariat itself.

    Now what is astonishing about this whole approach to the problem is that, in spite of its 'modern' appearance, its two basic elements -- (1) the use of the abstract contrast between 'dictatorship' and 'democracy', in order to sing the praises of the latter and to condemn the former (and what could be more 'obvious' ?), and (2) the treatment of Leninism as the theory and practice of socialism in the specific form determined by the Russian conditions of 1917 -- already, long ago, formed the basis of the Social-Democratic Parties' attacks on Bolshevism and the Bolshevik Revolution. They are for example the two pillars of Karl Kautsky's book on The Dictatorship of the Proletariat (1918), to which Lenin replied in the pamphlet The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky. Thus the present-day relevance of Lenin's writings is once again reinforced.

    Kautsky uses the identification of Leninism with contemporary Russian conditions in order to condemn it (remember that the whole of Social-Democracy, following the Russian Mensheviks, was at this time insisting that the Bolshevik Party had tried to 'take a short cut' to socialism by attempting to establish it in a backward country, i.e. in a land which was not yet sufficiently 'mature', either economically or politically, for socialist revolution), but the same approach can also be used, as it is today by certain Communist theoreticians, to 'excuse' Lenin's shortcomings and to 'explain' his failings and the limits of his teachings -- which must consequently be 'transcended'.

    Turning his attention to the question of 'dictatorship', Kautsky argues that since 'the exploiters have always formed only a small minority of the population', the rule of the proletariat need not assume a form 'incompatible with democracy'. Lenin comments: the 'pure' and 'simple' democracy which Kautsky talks about 'is sheer nonsense. Kautsky, with the learned air of a most learned armchair fool, or with the innocent air of a ten-year-old schoolgirl, asks: Why do we need a dictatorship when we have a majority?'[7]

    An 'innocent' question, because it relies on what seems to be an 'obvious' idea. I should like to ask the reader himself to decide whether it is not the same 'obvious' idea which lies behind the argument now commonly met with in many Western Communist Parties, including the British Party, to the effect that the dictatorship of the proletariat is now out-of-date and the 'democratic road to socialism' now a real possibility because it is nowadays possible to win not just a minority but the 'vast majority' of the people in a broad 'anti-monopoly alliance'. Now I am not denying the need to fight for the broadest possible alliance of the people, nor that monopoly ( = imperialist) capital constitutes the dominant fraction of the ruling capitalist class and therefore, in an important sense, the principal enemy of the people. But this kind of general consideration is useless if it is not used to draw attention to the urgent need for a concrete analysis of the precise relations of contradiction (antagonistic or non-antagonistic) and of common interest between the working class and the various other social strata and groups among the people, if instead it is employed precisely in order to 'demonstrate', on the basis of the old Social Democratic ( = bourgeois) opposition between democracy and dictatorship,[8] that whereas Lenin, in the conditions faced by the Bolshevik Revolution -- with a small working class isolated in a sea of peasants, and so on -- correctly insisted on the need for a dictatorship (of the proletariat), Western Europe will be able to take the democratic road to socialism. Thus democracy and dictatorship are interpreted as forms of government (parliament versus the one-party system, and so on) or as political or institutional forms (consent versus coercion). Yet on this point Lenin's argument is perfectly clear:

    'Bourgeois States are most varied in form, but their essence is the same: all these States, whatever their form, in the final analysis are inevitably the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie. The transition from capitalism to communism is certainly bound to yield a tremendous abundance and variety of political forms, but the essence will inevitably be the same: the dictatorship of the proletariat' (my emphasis -- G.L.).[9]

    Of course a simple reference to Lenin can never be a proof. But we can at least ask those theorists who have abandoned and rejected Lenin's position on this matter to admit as much.

*       *       *

I should like, in order better to illustrate the relevance of the present book to the debate which must take place in Britain, to make reference to a recent article by Jack Woddis (member of the Political Committee of the British Communist Party) in Marxism


[8] Cf. Lenin, The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky (XXVIII, 232 [p. 6]): 'Kautsky's great discovery of the "fundamental contrast" between "democratic and dictatorial methods" [. . .] is the crux of the matter; that is the essence of Kautsky's pamphlet. And that is such an awful theoretical muddle, such a complete renunciation of Marxism, that Kautsky, it must be confessed, has far excelled Bernstein.'
[9] In The State and Revolution, ch. 2 ; XXV, 418 [p. 41].

 

Today, November 1976, entitled 'The State -- Some Problems'. I do so not in order to engage in a personal polemic, but to make it possible for a serious discussion to take place around the question of the dictatorship of the proletariat (which, by the way, can certainly not be reduced to the simple question of whether or not the term itself figures in the Party Programme or in other publications). Woddis's article has the merit -- so far a rare merit -- that it attempts to take account, not pragmatically but in theoretical terms, of the recent development of capitalism (imperialism) and to consider what changes are correspondingly required in the positions and activity of British Marxists. However, I think that it is not possible to agree with all the points which he makes, and I shall try briefly to show why.

    First of all, Woddis suggests that the reason why Lenin insisted on the need to 'smash the State' was that he realized the impossibility -- in the conditions inherited from 'old Russia' -- of winning a majority of the people for socialism. It follows that, in cases where it is indeed possible to win such a majority, it would be unnecessary to smash the State, or at least that to talk in such terms would 'serve to hide the essence of the question' (p. 341). But this was not Lenin's reason. It is clear that his argument is not intended to apply only to the particular conditions of the Russian Revolution but to all revolutions against capitalist rule, because it is directly implied by his general conception of the State. For example, in ridiculing Kautsky's position ('Workers, fight! -- our philistine "agrees" to this [. . .] Fight, but don't dare win ! Don't destroy the State machine of the bourgeoisie . . .') he comments that: 'Whoever sincerely shared the Marxist view that the State is nothing but a machine for the suppression of one class by another, and who has at all reflected upon this truth, could never have reached the absurd conclusion that the proletarian organizations capable of defeating finance capital must not transform themselves into State organizations. It was this point that betrayed the petty bourgeois who believed that "after all is said and done" the State is some thing outside classes or above classes.'[10]

    This is the crux of the whole question: the idea that the State or any part of it is or might be above classes, above the class struggle. This is, however, the position adopted in effect by Woddis, when he argues in the following terms: 'The non-coercive sides of the State in Britain today are far more comprehensive, more diverse, and have a far larger personnel than the State in old Russia. Our State institutions embrace extensive economic functions and the nationalized industries, as well as education, the health services, social services, and so on. In essence what is required in these State sectors is a democratic transformation and forms of democratic control, not any "smashing" of such bodies which, under socialism, can really serve the people's interests once the essential democratic changes have been made.'[11]

    If you turn to Appendix II of Lenin's The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky you will find that he refutes precisely this argument, as put forward on that occasion by the Belgian Socialist Emile Vandervelde. Like Woddis, Vandervelde distinguished between the coercive side of the State, 'the State as the organ of authority', the State 'in the narrow sense', and the non-coercive sides, the State 'as a representative of the general interests of society', the State 'in the broad sense'. His programme was therefore 'the transformation of the present State as the organ of the rule of one class over another into [. . .] a people's labour State, by the conquest of political power by the proletariat'.[12] What does Lenin say about this programme, about the idea that the aim of the conquest of State power is to put an end to the capitalists' use of the State as a means of coercion, the State 'in the narrow sense', but at the same time to develop and expand the non-coercive sides of the State, the State 'in the broad sense'? He remarks, precisely in reply to this idea: 'The Kautskys and Vanderveldes say nothing about the fact that the transitional stage between the State as an organ of the rule of the capitalist class and the State as an organ of the rule of the proletariat is revolution, which means overthrowing the bourgeoisie and breaking up, smashing, their State machine'. The reason is that they 'obscure the fact that the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie must be replaced by the dictatorship of one class, the proletariat'. Thus, their denial of the need to 'smash' the capitalist State (for the sense of this expression, see below) follows directly from their general conception of the State, from their attitude to the dictatorship of the proletariat. Lenin concludes:


[11] p. 341.
[12] Quoted by Lenin, XXVIII, 324 [p. 136].

'Like Kautsky, Vandervelde quotes Marx and Engels with great zeal, and like Kautsky, he quotes from Marx and Engels anything you like except what is absolutely unacceptable to the bourgeoisie and what distinguishes a revolutionary from a reformist. He speaks volubly about the conquest of political power by the proletariat, since practice has already confined this within strictly parliamentary limits. But as regards the fact that after the experience of the Paris Commune, Marx and Engels found it necessary to supplement the partially obsolete Communist Manifesto with an elucidation of the truth that the working class cannot simply lay hold of the ready-made State machinery, but must smash it -- not a single word has he to say about that! Vandervelde and Kautsky, as if by agreement, pass over in complete silence what is most essential in the experience of the proletarian revolution, precisely that which distinguishes proletarian revolution from bourgeois reforms. Like Kautsky, Vandervelde talks about the dictatorship of the proletariat only to dissociate himself from it.'[13]

    It is therefore quite clear that Lenin's insistence on what he calls 'the main point, namely, the smashing of the old, bourgeois democratic State machine' is directly linked to his insistence on the need for the dictatorship of the proletariat. But since this latter insistence applies, as he says, to all bourgeois States -- not just Russia in 1917! -- because 'all these States, whatever their form, are inevitably the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie', and because the transition from capitalism to communism will always, in essence, 'inevitably be the same : the dictatorship of the proletariat', it follows that from Lenin's viewpoint the need to 'smash' the capitalist State also holds for all such States, however developed their 'non-coercive sides' may be.

    It is true that there are in Britain, as elsewhere, small 'Marxist' groups, whose positions are characterized by a kind of 'anti-parliamentary cretinism', and which constantly confuse and discredit the issue by associating it with the idea of the masses storming parliament in a repeat of the attack on the Winter Palace in Petrograd. But that is not its meaning. Far from it! In a moment we shall see why.

    The whole problem of Woddis's position lies, if I may say so, precisely in his conception of the dictatorship of the proletariat,


[13] XXVIII, 320 [The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky , p. 131]. (Cf. pp. 74-77, below.)

even though the term itself hardly figures in his article. The reason is that he associates Lenin's notion of this dictatorship exclusively with the use of coercion, with the violent smashing of the existing State machine, and thus with the installation of another, equally coercive machine (now directed against other classes, of course, and especially but not only against the old exploiting classes). Thus the dictatorship of the proletariat is once again identified with a particular 'form of government' -- a dictatorial, coercive form, lacking a 'democratic parliament', 'free elections', freedom of speech and association, universal and constitutionally guaranteed civil rights, and so on. But Lenin explicitly points out (1) that 'the form of government has absolutely nothing to do with it'[14] and (2) more specifically that in examining the question of the dictatorship of the proletariat we are not dealing with 'a special question, such as the franchise', but with a much more general problem (how in general can the proletariat exercize its dictatorship over the old exploiting classes?). Thus he remarks that in the pamphlet The State and Revolution 'I did not say anything at all about restricting the franchise. And it must be said now that the question of restricting the franchise is a nationally specific and not a general question of the dictatorship' (XXVIII, 255-56 [p. 37]); and a little later: 'The disenfranchisement of the bourgeoisie is not a necessary and indispensable feature of the dictatorship of the proletariat'. But Kautsky, against whom Lenin is arguing here, 'is exclusively interested in the formal, legal aspect of the question' (273 [p. 62]). This is the crucial point: the dictatorship of the proletariat is not to be defined in terms of a particular system of institutions ( = in formal, legal or constitutional terms -- i.e. as a non-constitutional, basically coercive system) but as genuine mass democracy, whatever the institutional forms in which this democracy is realized and developed.[15]

    But in that case, it might be asked, what is the meaning of


[14] XXVIII, 238 [The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky , p. 13].
[15] Though it is not any kind of institution which can, at a particular moment, play the role demanded by the development of mass democracy. There is no doubt, for example, that at a certain moment, in any given revolutionary process, parliamentary institutions (to the extent that they already exist) will become hindrances to this development, even if at an earlier moment they have played a very necessary role. The particular moment at which this occurs can only be decided by reference to the specific circumstances. But in any case the problem of institutions, though enormously important, is not the main problem.

Lenin's insistence on the need to 'smash' the capitalist State as a first step in the establishment of this dictatorship? We already have the key to the answer. Just as it is wrong to identify the dictatorship of the proletariat with a form of government based exclusively on violence and coercion, so it is wrong to identify the process of breaking up the capitalist State with a series of violent blows directed against particular institutions. The need, the vital necessity of 'smashing' or 'breaking up' the State machine can only be understood in terms of the need to break up 'the system of social relations which provides the bourgeois State apparatus with its astonishing capacity for resistance' (Balibar, ch. 4), to break up the division of manual and intellectual labour which has not only survived the contemporary development of the capitalist State and in particular of what Jack Woddis calls its 'non-coercive sides' (which 'in Britain today are far more comprehensive, more diverse, and have a far larger personnel than the State in old Russia',) but has actually been deepened and extended by that development. The need to 'smash' or 'break up' the capitalist State -- i.e., the need to destroy this division of labour, itself both the source and the reflection of deep-rooted class contradictions -- is therefore, if anything, greater than ever in our own day, greater than it was in Lenin's own time.

    But this brings me to another, related point. To abandon the idea of 'breaking up the old State'[16] -- provided that this idea is properly understood, and not confused with the notion of brute force -- is to close one's eyes to the real, material contradictions deriving from and expressed in this division of labour, and thus to blind oneself and others to the grave problems which must arise from the continued existence of this division of labour and its accompanying contradictions after the revolution (even when this revolution is based on the 'consent' of the people as 'expressed in


[16] Jack Woddis: 'The "rare exception" [winning a majority of the people] has now become the real alternative for the people in Western Europe [. . .] Talking in terms of "smashing" the State can, I believe, serve to hide the essence of the question [. . .] What is required in these State sectors [the "non-coercive sectors" -- G.L.] is a democratic transformation and forms of democratic control, not any "smashing" of such bodies . . .' (pp. 340-41). Cf : Lenin, XXV, 489-90 [The State and Revolution , p. 136]: 'Kautsky abandons Marxism for the opportunist camp, for this destruction of the State machine, which is utterly unacceptable to the opportunists, completely disappears from his argument, and he leaves a loophole for them in that "conquest" may be interpreted as the simple acquisition of a majority.'

an electoral majority').[17] Consequently, it helps to create the impression that any contradictions which happen to surface in this period must actually have not so much a material as an ideological cause, and are therefore to be treated as problems of (a lack of political consciousness, hang-overs from the bad, old capitalist days, when the monopolists -- controlled the 'mass media', etc. (Jack Woddis: 'Years of propaganda by the ruling class . . . have deceived the majority of working people . . .').[18] The consequence: the principal means of struggle under socialism would also be ideological, in order to correct or straighten out false ideas. In this connexion I ought, in parenthesis, to mention the fact that this curiously idealist picture of socialism, coupled with its accompanying idealist notion of ideology (ideology = deception ), is nowadays sometimes 'legitimated' by the (mis)use of a term drawn from the writings of Antonio Gramsci, the term hegemony. Thus it is argued that Gramsci, in drawing attention to the important role played by the propaganda, educational and cultural system in the maintenance of the State power of the ruling class, made it possible to 'correct' Lenin's 'one-sided' emphasis on the coercive function of the State, including the proletarian State, and thus opened the way to the 'modern' non-coercive and democratic conception of socialism now being developed in the Western European Communist Parties. Jack Woddis too presents something like this argument (pp. 333-34). Its force derives however only from the attribution to Gramsci of an equally idealist notion of ideology, i.e. from an idealist 'interpretation' of his concept of hegemony and therefore of his whole work.

    Why do I talk about an idealist conception of ideology? Because in effect this conception is completely isolated from the Marxist theory of class struggle in the economy, in politics and in ideology, and misrepresents or even destroys the relations between these forms of the class struggle. We have already seen an example: for if you avoid, ignore and thus effectively deny the contradictions involved in the division of manual and intellectual labour, in the socialist State apparatus but also outside it, you make it impossible to understand the symptoms and expressions of these contradictions except as ideological remnants of an earlier historical epoch, i.e. they hang in the air without any material support: they become nothing more than 'ideas', to be fought and replaced by other ideas, by means of propaganda (given that the propaganda, educational and cultural system is now in the hands of the working class -- or rather, given that it has now been 'democratized'). That is why the conception in question is an idealist one.

    In fact it is a very old idealist conception, for the identification of ideology or 'false consciousness' -- it used to go by other names -- with the end result of a process of deception [19] is a typically eighteenth-century procedure (it can be found, for example, in the writings of Jean-Jacques Rousseau). This however is only logical, for a very important reason which I shall outline in the following pages, but which I can sum up here, schematically, in a few words: namely, because certain theoretical positions today defended by some members of the British and other Communist Parties -- in particular in connexion with the development of the theory of 'State Monopoly Capitalism' -- remind one of another typically eighteenth-century (and therefore of course pre-Marxist) conception: I am talking about their presentation and definition of classes not in terms of a fundamental relation of antagonism between the capitalist class on the one side and the proletariat on the other but as groups (in this case the working class, middle strata, small and middle bourgeoisie, etc. and of course monopoly capital) each with its own 'particular interest' (this general notion can also be found in Jean-Jacques Rousseau). I shall try to outline the content and implications of my argument.

*       *       *

Jack Woddis treats in detail the question of what it is to hold State power, thereby however distracting attention from another, equally important question, namely: who holds State power? He assumes throughout his article that the answer is obvious: the 'monopoly capitalists'. But this is less obvious than it seems. Whereas Woddis himself speaks of the 'monopoly capitalists' (or of the 'big monopolies', 'monopoly capitalism', etc.), Lenin, in the


[19] Jack Woddis: ' "Force" or "coercion" or "compulsion" is an essential element of political power but [. . .] "consent" or acceptance by a substantial part of the population, even when gained by deception, is also essential' (p. 332); 'The power of ideas [. . .] partly by people's force of habit in their thoughts and actions, and partly by deception [. . .] wins or seduces the majority into accepting the status quo' (ibid.). The emphases are mine -- G.L.

passage quoted by Woddis himself on page 331, speaks of 'the bourgeoisie', and in the passage quoted by Mr Woddis himself on p. 341, of 'the capitalists'. Why the difference? Perhaps, of course, because the world has changed in the relevant respect. But let us look at this problem a little more closely.

    It concerns, in particular, as I said, the theory of 'State Monopoly Capitalism', which is today almost an official theory among Communist Parties. We can therefore assume that Woddis subscribes to it.[20] There are various versions of this theory to be found in Britain and elsewhere, but I think that they are not essentially different, and I shall therefore treat it as a single (but not homogeneous) theory.[21] Now, according to this theory, State power is indeed assumed to be held not by the bourgeoisie or by the capitalist class as a whole, but by monopoly capital alone. There may sometimes be a reference to 'the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie' or something similar, but to all intents and purposes it is, for the theory in question, the monopolies (or monopolists), and sometimes even the big monopolies alone, which hold State power. But this argument -- this is what is immediately striking and curious about it, as soon as you think about the problem -- actually appears to violate the Marxist thesis that State power is always held by a 'single' class -- i.e., a whole class, and not simply by one of its fractions, even if a given fraction of that class can be said to play a dominant role in the State. The difference between the two theses is however much greater than this mere formal statement would suggest. For example the theory of State Monopoly Capitalism suggests that only monopoly capital has an ('objective') interest in defending capitalism, because while the monopolies are making 'super-profits', the profits of the middle-sized and small enterprises are being correspondingly forced down, so that, 'objec-


[20] Cf : Jack Woddis, p. 332: 'Political power [is] in the hands of the most powerful monopolies.' This is an extreme representation of the idea essential to the theory of State Monopoly Capitalism that it is monopoly capital (and therefore one particular fraction of the capitalist class) which holds State power; for Woddis (here) it is only 'the most powerful monopolies'. See below for a discussion of the consequences of this general position.
[21] Cf : for example the collectively written Traité marxiste d'economie politique (Editions sociales, 1971) for what is perhaps the most sophisticated exposition of this theory. Lenin himself used the term 'State-monopoly capitalism' -- e.g. in his contribution to the 7th Bolshevik Party Congress (1917), in The Impending Catastrophe and How to Combat It and in The State and Revolution -- but not in the same sense.

tively', their owners are being drawn into the anti-monopoly alliance.

    Marx and Lenin however argued that it is the bourgeoisie as a whole that holds State power, and not simply one or another of its fractions. Note that this was not because, in their own time, monopoly capital had not yet emerged or won the dominant position which it enjoys in our own day; their argument does not in the first place concern the question of the existence or non-existence, or the domination or non-domination of any particular fraction of capital at any particular historical moment -- it is a general argument concerning the definition of the State, whereby they claim that the State is and always must be an instrument of class rule (i.e. of the rule of a given class), and that capitalist society contains, tendentially, only two classes, bourgeoisie and proletariat,[22] the consequence being that every modern State is either a dictatorship of the bourgeoisie or a dictatorship of the proletariat. At any moment in the development of the bourgeoisie this class does of course contain a dominant fraction (this was also the case in Marx's own time, and in that of Lenin), but neither concluded that State power was held by that fraction of the bourgeoisie; on the contrary, they spoke, as we have seen, about the State power of the capitalist class as a whole. Now in the present day, monopoly capital has clearly emerged as the dominant fraction within the capitalist class; but that would nevertheless not seem, if we follow Marx and Lenin, to be a good reason for concluding that it now, alone, holds State power.

    Why did Marx and Lenin insist that it is the capitalist class as a whole which holds State power? Because (1) the State is defined as a product and an instrument of the antagonism between the classes; (2) this antagonism is never purely political ('following on from' the existence of economic and cultural inequality, poverty, etc.) but essential to the definition of the capitalist production relation; (3) this production relation is defined first of all in terms


[22] A point which is not invalidated by the development, transformation (and disintegration) of other so-called 'intermediate' social strata. Classes, in Marxist theory, are defined in the epoch of capitalism first of all by the fundamental antagonism, rooted in the capitalist production relation, between the bourgeoisie on the one hand and the proletariat on the other. Naturally, however, if you abandon Marxism for a sociological definition of classes, you will be faced with the enormous (and insoluble) problem of that apparently ever-expanding 'new middle class'!

of exploitation (the extraction of surplus-value); but (4) the production relation is one whose terms are (whole) classes; the exploiting class is the bourgeoisie as a whole. The general process of capitalist accumulation must therefore be defined as a single (though complex) process in which all the fractions of the bourgeoisie are united in and by their exploitation of the working class. This remains true even if (which is today quite obviously the case) the process of the distribution of surplus-value heavily favours monopoly capital, and therefore even if certain important new contradictions are arising within the bourgeoisie, between its various fractions, of which the working class and its political leadership certainly must make use.

    This argument is not an exercise in logic-chopping; it has material political consequences. I shall outline three of them.

    (1) There is no suggestion here that the middle and small (petty) bourgeoisie form a single reactionary bloc; that does not follow from the argument. On the contrary. What is implied, however, is that there are good material reasons for the empirically observable fact that it is extremely difficult to pry these groups away from the big bourgeoisie, at least on any substantial political basis and for any substantial length of time. Certain consequences thus follow with respect to what might be called the political strategy and tactics of the Marxist Labour Movement, not least because the divisions inside the bourgeoisie are intimately linked with the divisions inside the proletariat. It is this connexion, and this latter set of divisions which make things so much more complicated than is suggested by the picture drawn by the theory of State Monopoly Capitalism.

    (2) In this theory, as we have seen, the bourgeoisie as a class tends to disappear, to be replaced by monopoly capital, etc. It is therefore no surprise that, analogously, the proletariat as a class should tend to disappear too, either entirely, or to become simply the 'core' of the working class or of the working people, and so on. In consequence it is similarly no surprise that theorists of State Monopoly Capitalism should conclude that, for this same reason, the idea of the dictatorship of the proletariat also has to be abandoned.

    (3) Once the dictatorship of the proletariat has been abandoned, it becomes possible to develop more consistently than before the particular notion of socialism and of the transition from capitalism to communism originally introduced by Stalin. This is not a slip of the pen: the conception of the transition from capitalism to communism now held and defended by those Communists who favour the abandonment of the dictatorship of the proletariat on the basis of general theoretical considerations like those recently invoked, really does derive, in the last instance, from Stalin, who revised Lenin's position in this respect. The differences can -- very schematically, it must be pointed out[23] -- be illustrated in the following diagrams:

Diagram 1 : Lenin's conception
 
capitalism
|
|
|
|
transition from capitalism to
communism
( = socialism or dictatorship of the
proletariat)
|
|
|
|
communism

------------ class struggle -------------------->

This conception was abandoned by Stalin, who introduced another, crucially different idea:

Diagram 2 : Stalin's conception
 
capitalism
|
|
|
|
|
transition from
capitalism to
socialism
( = dictatorship
of the proletariat)
|
|
|
|
|
socialism
(friendly rela-
tions between
classes)
|
|
|
|
|
communism

------- class struggle ---------->

For Stalin, socialism was not essentially a period of class struggle but of 'friendly collaboration between classes' (see the 1936 Constitution in particular, and the debate around it); yet there remained a 'socialist State'. A very curious thing, given that Marx and Lenin had always argued that the existence of the State


    [23] Particularly because in Lenin's conception the various 'stages' are not rigidly separated from one another as they are in Stalin's evolutionist model (cf. pp. 52-3).

was and could only be understood as an instrument of class struggle, and indeed given that Marxism defines classes themselves precisely in terms of class struggle. The dictatorship of the proletariat, which was necessarily bound up with the existence of class struggle, therefore had to be historically restricted in Stalin's theory to the period of transition not to communism but to socialism. At the cost of introducing an extra stage, Stalin therefore also introduced some logic into his scheme. But he had to do more: since he could not admit what Lenin insisted on -- namely, the contradictory nature of the proletarian State, which at one and the same time both defended the proletariat against its enemies and yet constituted a threat against which the proletariat had to defend itself[24] -- he had to transform the dictatorship of the proletariat from an historical tendency, describing the growing power of the proletariat both within and where necessary against the 'proletarian State' into a simple set of State institutions -- even if they were (still) called 'Soviets', etc.

    Now the present-day advocates of the abandonment of the dictatorship of the proletariat only take Stalin's scheme one step further. They want to abolish the dictatorship of the proletariat (in Stalin's sense of this term -- Lenin's sense is not mentioned! N.B.), and they can do so just because they have already, with respect to the period not just of socialism but of capitalism itself, effectively 'abolished' classes, however amazing this claim may seem. Of course the term 'class' is still used, but no longer in the Marxist sense [25] for in the Marxist sense classes are defined not in sociological terms, as a form of classification of a given population which is only a modern, 'scientific' version of the eighteenth century notion of 'particular interests' to which I referred earlier -- but exclusively in terms of the antagonism between the two classes of capitalist society, bourgeoisie and proletariat, and -- this is crucial -- because it is impossible to analyze this antagonism except with reference to the essential role played in the process of exploitation (in which the relation of antagonism takes material form) by the State, and its use as an instrument of the rule of one


[24] Lenin: The workers' organizations must 'protect the workers from their State'; XXXII, 25.  ["The Trade Unions. The Present Situation and Trotsky's Mistakes".]
[25] Or, if it is sometimes still used in the Marxist sense, this shows only that the 'theory' of State Monopoly Capitalism is, as I pointed out, not homogeneous, but an internally contradictory combination of Marxist and non-Marxist 'elements'.

of these two classes, namely the bourgeoisie. Therefore, once you abandon the notion, basic to Marxism and Leninism, that State power always lies in the hands of a single class, i.e. that every State is the dictatorship of a class, you are naturally led to drop the idea that present-day capitalism is a dictatorship of the bourgeoisie; but since you have ceased to define the bourgeoisie in a Marxist sense, and therefore the proletariat too, you will naturally conclude that the conception of the dictatorship of the proletariat is also quite superfluous and indeed wrong, because the proletariat does not really exist any more, except as a sociological category ('core of the working class', etc.). It is for all these reasons that there is a close connexion between the emergence of the theory of State Monopoly Capitalism and the abandonment of the dictatorship of the proletariat, and that this abandonment cannot be considered (as some sections of the bourgeois press have maliciously but stupidly contended) as a tactical electoral manoeuvre.

    But at the same time we cannot therefore identify the abandonment of the dictatorship of the proletariat unequivocally with a process of 'de-Stalinization'. On the contrary, it is rather a question of ironing out discrepancies in Stalin's picture, for Stalin, following immediately upon Lenin, could not at once abandon all the aspects of the latter's position (and certainly not all of the words: in particular, the term 'dictatorship of the proletariat' was retained for certain purposes). It is worth remembering (see ch. 1 below) that the trials, purges, labour camps, etc. for which the Stalin period is renowned for the most part followed the introduction of the 1936 Constitution, i.e. followed the effective abandonment by Stalin of the dictatorship of the proletariat as applied to the Soviet Union.

    It is of course quite obvious that, in abandoning the dictatorship of the proletariat in their turn, Westem European Communists do want and intend to break with (the remnants of) 'Stalinism', not to reproduce or to reinforce them. In a certain sense, it must be admitted that they have done so. Their new positions are certainly not, in spite of what has been said above, identical with those defended by Stalin, and the practical consequences of these new positions, in what are in any case different historical conditions, will certainly not be the same. Yet their positions remain in another important sense structurally equivalent to Stalin's. In what sense ? In the sense, as I said, that they defend an analogous conception of socialism. This may sound like an astonishing claim, given that so much attention has been paid (e.g. in the French Communist Party's 22nd Congress) to defining a form of socialism apparently as different as you can possibly imagine from the Soviet variety, and especially from the pre-1956 Soviet variety. But the point here is not that the contents of the two packages are different; it is that both conceptions picture socialism as a form of society in its own right, which can be defined in terms of public ownership of the means of production, planned growth, economic justice, etc. The fact that individual and collective liberty is now added to the list as an essential element changes nothing of the fact that in both cases you find a conception of the socialist State (N.B.) not as a contradictory phenomenon, both a vital necessity and yet a mortal danger to the struggle of the working class for communism, but as a simple instrument for the administration of a society without antagonistic contradictions (except with regard to the remnants of the old ruling classes, destined in any case to die out), an instrument for the 'satisfaction of the people's needs'. Yet this is not only Stalin's but -- strangely exactly the typical Social-Democratic conception of socialism! Since it is a Social-Democratic conception, it should be no surprise to discover that it is also a typically bourgeois conception.

    Bourgeois ideology can imagine (a fact which is reflected in its classic contrast between democracy and dictatorship) two forms of the exercise of State power: the democratic form (parliamentary institutions, multi-party system, freedom of speech and assembly, etc.) and the dictatorial form (single-party system, fusion of party and state, refusal to tolerate opposition, and so on). It can imagine these two forms of the exercise of State power, and it classifies existing States accordingly. What it cannot imagine is a State of the kind portrayed by Lenin, a genuinely proletarian State, a State whose function is to exercize power only and precisely in order to prepare the conditions for its own disappearance, a State whose very existence is based on a contradiction, a State which itself recognizes that it must finally 'wither away', a State which accepts that it cannot achieve its goal unless it ceases to exist -- and all this not in any formal or merely verbal sense, but in the material practice of the class struggle. Such a State would have to recognize that it can never be 'universal', for if, impossibiliter, it were ever to become universal, its material reason for existence would have been eliminated. It can only exist as long as society is divided by the class struggle. But bourgeois ideology cannot imagine such a thing. For bourgeois ideology the State is, on the contrary, essentially universal, serving the whole of the people. Marxism says: such a State cannot exist; it is literally a nonsense. But our old (Stalin-type) and brand-new 'Marxists' say, turning bourgeois ideology to their own ends: such a State as you, the bourgeoisie, dream of can be realized -- under socialism. It is our (projected) socialist State! The socialist State is thus represented as the first truly universal State, the first genuine 'State of the whole people'. What separates our old, Stalin-type Marxists from the brand-new variety is that the latter have swallowed a little bit more of the bourgeois line: they have swallowed the whole story about democracy versus dictatorship, too, which Stalin -- and the Communist Parties, up until recently -- for their own (different) reasons always refused. So, applying this contrast, they assure the world: we no longer want a dictatorial socialist State but a democratic socialist State.

    Of course this process of ideological evolution must not be exaggerated. There is all the world of difference between a Communist Party and any bourgeois political formation. What we are talking about is an ideological and political tendency (what lies behind it?) and the resulting contradictory forms of theory and practice. Our task is however not to congratulate any Communist Party on the fact that its theory and practice are in part Marxist, but to draw attention to the respects in which they are not. For in a number of important respects, in particular in their conception of socialism, the Communists of whom we spoke are, consciously or unconsciously, still following Stalin in his departure from Marxism.

    The struggle of the Communist Parties cannot be a struggle for socialism, in its own right, but must be a struggle for communism (see ch. 5, below). To suppose, as Stalin did and as many present-day Communists do, that there is a particular form of society called socialism naturally leads you to try and define it - e.g. in terms of a so-called 'socialist mode of production',[26] in terms of the replace ment of the anarchy of capitalist production by the planned expansion of socialist production, in terms of the transformation


[26] Cf. e.g. M. Decaillot, Le Mode de production socialiste, Editions sociales, 1973.

of the State from an instrument of class rule into an instrument for the satisfaction of the needs of the people, etc. Thus the contradictory nature of the socialist State tends to be lost from view. This in turn opens the way to bourgeois propaganda, which accuses the Communists precisely of fighting for a form of society in which the State will be allowed to crush the individual, to destroy his creative talents and initiative and steal his freedom. What do our up-to-the-minute comrades answer? Accepting the false bourgeois theory of the State and of its potential function in the universal satisfaction of the people's needs (while disagreeing of course as to which or whose State can realize this potential) they now simply answer: but our State, the socialist State, will actually provide the individual and the community with an unprecedented 'liberty'! What is astonishing is that the bourgeoisie and its propagandists should thus be allowed to get away so easily with their conjuring trick. They of course accuse communism of elevating the State to an unprecedentedly powerful position vis-à-vis the individual (thus the constant reference to Police States, 'dictatorships', totalitarianism, etc.). The 'modern' (or new-fangled) Communists reply: our socialist State, unlike the USSR, will meet all your demands -- there will be a genuine parliament (unlike those in Eastern Europe), a multi-party system, all the freedom of speech and association that you could imagine, and so on. But this is a very curious answer, not so much in the detail of its proposals -- and we are not suggesting instead the 'other alternative' within the same framework, a 'model' of socialism based on the single-party system! -- but in its basic assumptions, including its assumption that these proposals satisfactorily deal with the main point at issue. It is certainly not Lenin's answer.

    Lenin says: parliamentary democracy is one form of the State, and therefore a form of dictatorship -- of a given class. There is no 'pure democracy', no 'democracy in general'. The struggle of the Communists is not in the end to establish a 'democratic State' but to abolish the State. Their tactics and their strategy must be adapted to this end. The aim of the Communists is thus infinitely more radical than that of the most radical Social-Democrat or liberal, and their struggles must be directed to this aim. But since the road to this end is not necessarily a direct or straight one, since it may involve the most difficult detours, it cannot be conceived of simply in terms of the ever-expanding development of 'liberty'. There can be no easy answer to the question of what strategy a Communist Party ought to follow in any concrete set of national and historical conditions, and this book certainly cannot provide one. But it is possible, under certain circumstances, to try and establish a little theoretical clarity with respect to the basic problems of socialism and communism.

    It would for instance certainly be false and even absurd to claim that the struggle to establish (in Spain) or maintain (in France, Britain, etc.) a functioning parliamentary system is unimportant. It may even be crucial at certain moments. But it does not follow that the State power of the bourgeoisie is any less absolute in such a system than in what is popularly called a 'dictatorship', or that in such a system, even when it succeeds in electing 'representatives' to the national parliament (Socialists or even Communists), the working class thereby gains the slightest grasp of State power, that it thereby holds the slightest scrap of State power. It does not! The struggle to establish or defend parliamentary democracy is for the Communists a struggle to strengthen the forces of democracy, in the Marxist sense of the term, to give them room and opportunities in the fight and a greater chance of one day seizing State power i.e. of establishing a dictatorship of the proletariat, whatever governmental forms this may take. The reason for seizing State power is that, one day, it may thereby be possible to cause State power to disappear, and with it class struggle and exploitation. The fight for socialism makes no sense if it is interpreted as a fight to establish a 'universal' State, satisfying the interests of the whole people; it only makes sense as a fight to establish a State -- a dictatorship of the proletariat -- which will itself pave the way to the abolition of every State. Such an idea, as I already pointed out, is incomprehensible to bourgeois ideology, which has classified communism as an ideology of unlimited State power; but that is no reason why it should be incomprehensible to a Communist.[27]

    I said earlier that a debate on the dictatorship of the proletariat might appear to be outlandish in present-day Britain. But there is a very good material reason for this. Every such debate, which touches on questions of real importance to the struggle of the working class is bound to appear 'unreal', because it has to take place


[27] Nor therefore any reason why he should now classify it instead as a doctrine of limited State power!

outside the boundaries set by the dominant ideology, the ideology of the capitalist State, therefore outside the boundaries of 'common sense'. Since these boundaries are rather narrower in Britain than in France, because of the past and present history of the labour movement in the two countries, and in particular of the relative weakness of a Marxist tradition in Britain, the effect produced by such a debate may appear correspondingly more disconcerting. That is no reason to refuse the debate, and even less is it a good reason to throw overboard the concept of the dictatorship of the proletariat. No-one suggests that the explanation, defence and development of this concept does not have its 'difficult' side, that it does not involve serious contradictions, that it cannot be exploited by the propagandists of the ruling class for their own purposes. No-one is suggesting that Marxists should play into their hands by plastering the term 'dictatorship of the proletariat' over all their pamphlets and leaflets, in conditions where its real meaning cannot be explained and where, in consequence, it is bound to be misunderstood. But that does not mean that all efforts should cease to explain its meaning to the masses and to develop the reality of that meaning by learning from the experience of the masses, so that this concept can finally become their own. To insist on the concept of the dictatorship of the proletariat does not mean to condemn or to abandon hope of all other social groups than the proletariat; on the contrary, it means to insist on the development of the only concept which can provide the foundation of a materialist analysis of the concrete possibilities of alliances between the proletariat and other groups and social strata (see ch. 4), which can do more than refer us to some abstract notion of the convergence of 'objective interests' uniting all sections of the population outside of monopoly capital (cf. p. 230).

    I already pointed out that the concept of the dictatorship of the proletariat (together with its accompanying theory of the 'socialist State') is infinitely more radical than the most radical liberal or Social-Democratic theory of the State, since it insists not on the 'widest possible liberty' for the individual and community in the face of the State but on the disappearance of the State itself, of every State, precisely through the establishment of a dictatorship of the proletariat, which must itself develop the contradiction which will lead to its own disappearance. I would add: it also provides for an infinitely more genuine, an infinitely deeper form of democracy than the most radical liberal or Social-Democratic theory, precisely because it works to 'overcome democracy'.[28] And therefore we are obliged to conclude with Etienne Balibar that those who want to abandon the dictatorship of the proletariat are consciously or unconsciously -- motivated not by a desire to preserve and extend democracy but by a fear of what genuine mass democracy might mean, unless it be that they have simply given up hope, under the constant pressures and problems which every Marxist must face, that such a form of democracy, therefore communism, could ever really be on the agenda in Britain. But that is not a reason for accepting the abandonment of the dictatorship of the proletariat -- on the contrary, it is a reason for continuing the fight not simply to defend it, but to develop it and thereby finally to bring about real freedom (Lenin: 'So long as the State exists there is no freedom. When there is freedom, there will be no State'),[29] however impossible that may now seem. Because if the arguments contained in this book are well-founded, then the dictatorship of the proletariat is indeed an historical reality which no-one and nothing can abolish.

Grahame Lock  


[28] Cf. Lenin, The State and Revolution, ch. V, [§] 4 (XXV, 479 [pp. 121-22]): 'The more complete the democracy, the nearer the moment when it becomes unneccssary.'
[29] Op. cit., XXV, 473 [p. 114].