March 18, 1871, the working class of Paris, France rose up and formed what is known today as the Paris Commune of 1871. The Commune was the beacon of hope for the international proletariat (the working class), for the Commune was the prototype of the dictatorship of the proletariat (a government based on the political dominance of the working class). “It was essentially a working class government, the produce of the struggle of the producing against the appropriating class, the political form at last discovered under which to work out the economic emancipation of labor” (Karl Marx, The Civil War in France pg. 60).
But if the Commune was so ground breaking why have most never heard of it; why is it that there is no mention of it in our text books? To put it simply it is because the bourgeoisie (the capitalist class) and the vulgarizing opportunists have stamped it out; it has been completely wiped from history. Both groups sought to erase the Commune due to the fear that encroached on them the day the oppressed classes smashed the old state machinery and built the revolutionary tool that put the bourgeois republic to shame.
“Compare these Parisians, storming heaven, with the slaves to heaven of the German-Prussian Holy Roman Empire, with its posthumous masquerades reeking of the barracks, the Church cabbage-junkerdom and above all, of the philistine” (Karl Marx and V.I. Lenin, The Civil War in France: The Paris Commune pg. 86). Our government, the “dictatorship of the bourgeoisie,” is built on democracy of the minority over the majority and an economic system of exploitation. The harbinger of the next step of humanity’s progress, the dictatorship of the proletariat, offers fuller democracy, cheap administration and best of all progression. The dictatorship of the bourgeoisie had grown into a stagnant outdated piece of junk even before the Parisians stormed the heavens in 1871; it is long past due that humanity adopt a tool with which it can truly liberate itself.
- What is the State?
Before we rush forward into battle we must lay the ground work, i.e. we must truly understand what the state (government) is and its nature. In Lenin’s The State and Revolution he explicitly elucidates the state’s purpose as well as its origin: “The state is the product and manifestation of the irreconcilability of class antagonisms. The state arises when, where and to the extent that class antagonisms cannot be objectively reconciled. And, conversely, the existence of the state proves that class antagonisms are irreconcilable” (V.I. Lenin, Essential Works of Lenin pg. 273). He goes on to say “the state is an organ of class rule, an organ for the oppression of one class by another; it creates “order,” in which legalizes and perpetuates this oppression by moderating the collision between the classes” (274). So, from the above quotations we now can understand that a state arises due to class conflict and is used by the dominate class to oppress the others and maintain its authority.
Now we are faced with a new question, how does the state exert such oppression? Engels answers this question in a detailed explanation:
“The second distinguishing characteristic is the institution of a public force which is no longer identical with the peoples own organization of themselves as an armed power” (Friedrich Engels, The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State pg. 208-209). “This public force exists in every state; it consists not merely of armed men but also of material appendages, prisons, and coercive institutions of all kinds, of which gentile society knew nothing” (209).
The state is not imposed upon society, but rather a product of class antagonisms; it rises above society to assert itself as the instrument used by the ruling class to oppress those beneath it. It uses both armed bodies alienated from the mass of the people and “material appendages” to carry out this role. “But in America the government is for the people, and thus utilized by the masses,” the small-minded philistines chant in unison. These imbeciles believe that the modern bourgeois democratic-republic is truly subordinate to the people regardless of class; they’ve clearly overlooked the facts.
“And people think they have taken quite an extraordinary bold step forward when they have rid themselves of belief in hereditary monarchy and swear by the democratic republic. In reality, however, the state is nothing but a machine for the oppression of one class by another, and indeed in the democratic republic no less than in the monarchy…” (K. Marx & V.I. Lenin Civil War in France: The Paris Commune pg. 21-22).
Never will there be a state without class antagonisms, nor a state not alienated from, standing above society. When the state is present, force, violence and oppression is seen; all of these are acts carried out by state machinery under the will of the ruling class. Both formats of the state that we are examining are democratic republics, the primary difference between them being the dominate class.
- Faults of the Dictatorship of the Bourgeoisie
With the ground work lain we now move on to the vulgar abomination, the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie; let us reveal to the world its most revolting, stagnant features that fail in comparison to the revolutionary dictatorship. To spare the reader the torture of every meticulous detail I’ll specifically be covering parliamentarism and general aspects of the bourgeoisie’s class domination and reactionism.
“Take any parliamentary country, from America to Switzerland, from France to England, Norway and so forth – in these countries the actual work of the “state” is done behind the scenes and is carried on by the departments, the government offices and General Staffs. Parliament itself is given up to talk for the special purpose of fooling the “common people”,” (V.I. Lenin, Essential Works of Lenin pg. 304-305)
Lenin’s criticism of the parliamentary system utilized by the bourgeois republics cannot possibly be denied. Thousands of government officials, whom we don’t elect, are the ones who truly run the show; they do all the work, while our handsomely-paid “representatives” chatter on about what must be done. The financial burden of this system alone should be enough to whither the credibility of the bourgeois republic, but there is another atrocity that cannot be overlooked; we are lied to, our system is the farthest thing from being a democracy for the majority. We’ve been stupefied and manipulated into thinking that our representatives take care of our needs, when in reality they’re all smoke and mirrors.
The puppet master behind the charade, the bourgeoisie, has long ago laid claim to the democratic-republic through bribery, the corrupting of officials and rewarding representatives that do the bourgeoisie’s bidding, with soft, cushy jobs with high salaries. The Stock Exchange also becomes butted up to the government, further strengthening capital’s control. “The omnipotence of “wealth” is thus
more secure in a democratic-republic, since it does not depend on the faulty political shell of capitalism. A democratic-republic is the best possible political shell for capitalism, and, therefore, once capital has gained control of this very best shell”…“it established its power so securely, so firmly, that no change, either of persons, of institutions, of parties in the bourgeois-democratic republic, can shake it,” (V.I. Lenin, Essential Works of Lenin pg. 279).
The bourgeois influence grips the public strongly in more ways than simply averting their eyes from the fallacy of parliamentarism. It also floods the public’s collective mind with the reactionary idea of the state being an essential part of everyday life, and that there can never be a society without a state. People become accustomed to believing this reactionary garbage the earlier they’re exposed to its toxins; this reactionary idea has been induced by the bourgeoisie to stop progression, to halt the revolution. This marks a clear difference between the reactionary dictatorship (bourgeois dictatorship) and the revolutionary dictatorship (proletarian dictatorship); this difference being that the former uses the state indefinitely and strengthens it over time, while the latter only utilizes a dyeing state. (There will be more on this in the next section). Engels outlines the reactionary influence plaguing bourgeois society with unrelenting ferocity:
“According to the philosophical notion, the state is the “realization of the idea” or the Kingdom of God on earth, translated into philosophical terms, the sphere in which external truth and justice is or should be realized. And from this follows the superstitious reverence for the state and everything connected with it, which takes root the more readily as people from their childhood are accustomed to imagine that the affairs and interests common to the whole of society could not be looked after otherwise than as they have been looked after in the past, that is, through the state and well paid officials,” (Karl Marx & V.I. Lenin, Civil War in France: The Paris Commune pg. 21).
Under the bourgeois republic, a reactionary dictatorship, there will always be capital running the show. The working class has no time to deal in politics, they’re busy selling their sweat, blood and tears to the blood-suckers in order to live another day. Personified wealth is the only thing to appear on the stage behind a podium, ranting about issues that it will never fix just to be elected by the “common people” who are drugged with the opium of parliamentarism. Only when true representatives of the toiling masses are elected will we see any sign of true progression towards revolution. Once such an event occurs we will begin to see the pressure gauge of revolutionary energy begin to rise. Once the pressure reaches its limit the awakened masses will revolt with great ferocity and revolutionary power to crush, smash and eradicate the bourgeois republic. Past revolutions have only passed control of the state machinery and added on to it; the proletarian revolution, instead, destroys it.
- The Proletarian Dictatorship
With our world in such a crippled, decaying state, ruled over by the very demons that stained it black, only the dictatorship of the proletariat will come to our aid and pull humanity from the dark abyss of exploitation. The dictatorship of the proletariat, as we now conceive it, was based on the Paris Commune of 1871; the Commune was the child of class warfare, it was the tool discovered by the Parisian working class that was to be used to once and for all crush the bourgeoisie. In a plethora of ways the proletarian dictatorship has outstripped the bourgeois dictatorship; fuller democracy, progressiveness and cost to run are just a few of the goliath steps forward taken by the dictatorship of the proletariat.
As expressed in the introduction the Paris Commune of 1871 was the prototype of the dictatorship of the proletariat; its rise to power proved that the bourgeois state machinery needed to be smashed in the working class revolution and that the dictatorship of the proletariat was the predictable natural outcome of the working class revolution. Marx gives us a spectacular analysis of the Commune’s political organization:
“The Commune was formed of the municipal councilors, chosen by universal suffrage in the various wards of the town, responsible and revocable at short terms. The majority of its members were naturally working men, or acknowledged representatives of the working class. The Commune was to be a working, not a parliamentary body, executive and legislative at the same time. Instead of continuing to be the agent of the Central Government, the police was at once stripped of its political attributes, and turned into the responsible and at all times revocable agent of the Commune. So were the officials of all other branches of administration. From the members of the Commune downwards, the public service had to be done at workmen’s wages. The vested interest and the representation allowances of the high dignitaries of state disappeared along with the high dignitaries themselves. Public functions ceased to the private property of the tools of Central Government. Not only municipal administration, but the whole initiative hitherto exercised by the state was laid into the hands of the Commune,
“Having once gotten rid of the standing army and the police, the physical force elements of the government, the Commune was anxious to break the spiritual force of repression, the “parson-power,” by the disestablishment and disendowment of all churches as proprietary bodies. The priests were sent back to the recesses of private life, there to feed upon the alms of the faithful in imitation of their predecessors, the apostles. The whole of the educational institutions were opened to the people gratuitously, and at the same time cleared of all interference of church and state. Thus, not only was education made accessible to all, but science itself freed from the fetter which class prejudice and governmental force had imposed upon it,” (K. Marx & V.I. Lenin, Civil War in France: The Paris Commune pg. 57-58).
The organization of the Commune was to be based on voluntary centralism with each consecutive commune working together; “the Commune was to be the political form of even the smallest country hamlet,” (K. Marx & V.I. Lenin, Civil War in France: The Paris Commune pg. 58). The rural districts sent delegates to the central town to administer their affairs; from there more delegates would be sent to a National Delegation in Paris. The Communal Constitution would be the binding glue of the communes. Centralism, as we see it here, was a voluntary fusion based on fighting their common enemy, the bourgeoisie.
With the last point in mind we can refute the common idea of communism failing due to what some call the “human aspect.” The power of having a common enemy is seen throughout history, and under the dictatorship of the proletariat there is no exception. In the case of the transitional regime, i.e., the epoch of the dictatorship of the proletariat, the bourgeoisie and the landowners are together the common enemy of all the toiling classes. Thus, voluntary centralism can be very easily accomplished and maintained throughout the epoch of the transitory regime, just as Lenin explains, through the united action of the toiling masses directed against the expropriators.
“But will it not be centralism when the proletariat and the poorest peasantry take political power in their own hands, organize themselves freely in communes, and unite the action of all the communes in striking at capital, in crushing the resistance of the capitalists, in transferring the ownership of the
railways, factories, land and so forth, to the entire nation, to the whole of society? Will that not be the most consistent democratic centralism? And proletarian at that?” (V.I. Lenin, Essential Works of Lenin pg. 310).
Thus, the dictatorship of the proletariat, as it has been manifest through the Commune, has presented us with a new type of state, one that is the old bourgeois state flipped on its head. “Democracy for the vast majority of people, and suppression by force, i.e., exclusion from democracy, of the exploiters and oppressors of the people – this is the change democracy undergoes during the transition from capitalism to communism” (V.I. Lenin, Essential Works of Lenin pg. 338). The “talking shop” (parliament) has been thrown out and replaced with a “working body” that is dually executive and legislative simultaneously. Oppressive machinery, the public force, consisting of a standing army and a police force, were also amputated and replaced by the armed workers themselves in a national militia with a notably short term of service. All round, democracy has been developed and freed from the parasites that were burrowed deep within in its flesh; (of course this is still not truly full democracy, the bourgeoisie still needs to repressed until classes are destroyed, the state withers away, and high communism need to be attained before such a thing is possible). We now have a state that can barely be called a state.
Costs have also severely withered due to the destruction of the army and its replacement with a short term national militia alongside state functionism’s disestablishment. High wages payed to false, corrupt “representatives” of the parliamentary system were no longer in existence under the Commune. The chant that the bourgeoisie has said throughout its revolutions about cheap administration have finally been realized, but under a working class government.
All earlier points combine into the realization that the dictatorship of the proletariat is a truly tantamount and progressive revolutionary tool. It is a state that barely resembles a state. Of course, these traits are not where the true prowess of the revolutionary dictatorship are to be found, nor is their acquisition the fulfillment of the proletarian dictatorship’s true goal. Both its best prowess, its working class attribute, and its true goal intertwine, for, the true goal of the dictatorship is to realize the emancipation of labor and the liquidation of classes and their antagonisms. Thus, its goal is to destroy the very basis of itself, i.e. class antagonisms. With this in mind we can now tackle two great ideas, the withering away of the state and the transition to communism communism (more on this in section five). Expropriating and oppressing the expropriators is the mission of the proletariat once it has attained political supremacy; the further it gets towards finishing this mission, the more the state will wither away, i.e., the less power the bourgeoisie has, the less there is need of the state power looming over society. Lenin explains the process in an easily digestible fashion:
“Only in communist society, when the resistance of the capitalists has been completely broken, when the capitalists have disappeared, when there are no classes (i.e., when there is no difference between the members of society as regards their relation to the social means of production), only then does “the state . . . cease to exist,” and it “becomes possible to speak of freedoms.” Only then will really complete democracy, democracy without any exceptions, be possible and be realized. And only then will democracy itself begin to wither away owing to the simple fact that, freed from capitalist slavery, from the untold horrors, savagery, absurdities and infamies of capitalist exploitation, people will gradually become accustomed to observing the elementary rules of social life that have been known for centuries and repeated for thousands of years in all copy-book maxims; they will become accustomed to observing
them without force, without compulsion, without subordination, without the special apparatus that is called the state,” (V.I. Lenin, Essential Works of Lenin, pg. 338).
- Faults of the Commune
With the Commune’s revolutionary successes emancipated from the ranks of forgotten history the maladies of the Commune that apply to our investigation of the dictatorship of the proletariat must also be addressed. Marx points out both economic and political maladies within the Commune that we shall now explore.
First off is the make-up of the Commune. The Paris Commune was comprised of many shades of socialist schools that had very different views on the course of the working class movement causing a very slow leadership which was fatigued even further by the civil war engulfing France during its life span. This heterogeneous leadership proved to be incompatible with the state of things and further supported the idea of a centralized leading party that would act as the vanguard of the working class; such an idea was later put into practice in the Russian October revolution of 1917 which was led by the Bolshevik Party. A centralized political party of professional revolutionaries with the same goal in mind allowed for a successful peoples’ revolution in Russia thus finalizing its use in practice.
Second was the early retirement of the Central Committee, a military leadership that controlled the militia of the Commune, in order to give way to the Paris Commune’s leadership and elections. This was said to have been done too early by Marx who was proven correct by the fall of the Commune; the Soviet Union on the other hand continued a militaristic control with as much democracy as the situation allowed during its civil war that was kick started after the communist revolution. During the civil war the Bolshevik Party planned to head the dictatorship of the proletariat temporarily until the war subsided and the Soviets (Russian version of the Commune) took over completely; during this temporary dictatorship of the Party democracy was kept alive and developed as much as the situation allowed.
The third and final relevant mistake of the Commune is one of an economic nature. During the life span of the Paris Commune many buildings including abandoned factories were decreed property of the working class of Paris, but due to their uneasiness in this area of expropriation the Commune did not claim the banks leaving a large amount of leverage and power in the hands of the international bourgeoisie. This mistake was yet another reason for the early demise of the first working class government and proved that all property, especially the banks, needs to be nationalized and monopolized by the proletarian dictatorship.
Even through the Paris Commune’s mistakes and shortcomings we can realize what must be done and what must be prepared for; this foreknowledge was one of the reasons for the success of the October revolution of 1917 and it will be one of the reasons for the success of future revolutions.
- The Goal of the Proletarian Dictatorship
To conclude the study of the working class government its historical mission and place must be elucidated. As said in the concluding portion of the third section of this essay the true goal and ability of the proletarian dictatorship is the emancipation of the working class and the destruction of class society
all together; due to the basis of the state being the class conflicts of society, and therefore class society itself, the destruction of class society would destroy the need of a state. Marx has explained in numerous works, most famously in The Communist Manifesto, that capitalist society divides itself into two camps: the proletariat and the capitalists; the proletariat is produced by capitalist accumulation and therefore we see capitalism producing its own demise: the strength and ranks of the proletariat, i.e. its gravediggers.
Under the dictatorship of the proletariat, the transitional regime between capitalism and socialism, the capitalists are expropriated; once this is done the working class will go with it giving way to a truly free society, a classless society. Such an idea must not be looked at as utopian dogma that Marx pulled from the heavens, for it is only a theoretical process that was elucidated by Marx in a dialectical fashion. This aspect of Marx’s theory gives it its scientific basis separating it from utopian socialism and establishing scientific socialism. One can see this attribute in Marx’s theory through the fact that Marx nowhere establishes a rigid dogmatic system of communism that is supposedly better than our current society in every way. Instead he studied the course of history then came to the conclusion that not only was capitalism a temporary transitional mode of production, but also that it would birth a new society where free men would hold the means of production in common. The dictatorship of the proletariat is yet another example of Marx’s scientific approach in his theory; he had held the proletarian dictatorship as a theoretical outcome of the working class struggle until proven correct by the Paris Commune and again later by the Soviet Union.
Now let us look at the theoretical transition from capitalism to socialism and how Marx never crossed the line into utopianism. To understand this transition one must think in a dialectical manner and never rigidly believe in a fantastic jump from one form of society to the next, or that any type of transition to one form of society to the next will be void of any backslides. Marx recognizes that there will be strata of development towards full communism; we will focus on the two major strata: low and high communism, the latter being full communism.
After the establishment of the workers’ state, the nationalization of all property, and the expropriation of the exploiters has been completed the state will still be left standing, albeit in a withered state of being, and the bourgeois rule will still prevail in distribution. This stage of transition is known as the lower stage of communism during which classes have ceased to exist but bourgeois rule, i.e. remnants of bourgeois influence, still exists in distribution and for that reason the state still has bourgeois aspects in its make-up; even in low communism where the bourgeoisie doesn’t exist the bourgeois state still stands. This is due to the need for the regulation of distribution which during this stage of communism will most likely be done according to the amount of labor each individual does; a distribution of this type has a bourgeois stigma attached to it because inequality can still arise between free associated workers due to the differences of their individual prowess. Though exploitation has been done away with and production has been placed on a plan made by associated free workers who hold the means of production in common, inequality still exists. In this period the state shall step in to strictly regulate both production and distribution until the powers of production are suitable for all to work according to their ability and receive according to their needs.
Once the last birthmarks of bourgeois society are stripped from the new evolving communist society the high stage of communism will be attained and the state will wither away completely; no one can say how long this will take. Such a transition to a form of society in which free workers will own and utilize
the means of production in common according to a plan made by the association of free a workers will be far less bloody than the transition of the old form of scattered small scale production to the capitalist mode of production in which many were ripped from the land and forced into manufacturing and were beaten, imprisoned and even executed if they “chose” to be vagabonds.
For any questions regarding the reasons for the maladies of the Soviet Union the author of this essay would like to direct the reader to Leon Trotsky’s The Revolution Betrayed, in which Leon Trotsky, one of the leaders of the October revolution of 1917, explains the reasons for the maladies that foretold the collapse of the Soviet Union decades later. Originally a section was to be devoted to this issue but as the page count marched on it had to be cut; the author apologizes greatly to those who were looking forward to an investigation into the reasons for the degradation of the Soviet Union.
By: Luke Mavis