|State in Revolutionary Periods
The Revolutionary Period and the
Dictatorship of the Proletariat
That communist society takes the place of capitalist relations of production and social system is a general and correct statement. This is a general expression of the historical course of development of human society. But we have seen how Lenin in The State and Revolution concentrates his entire argument on the examination of the historic distance between these two social systems, emphasizing the existence of the period of transitionand the dictatorship of the proletariat as the political regime of this transition period. Traditionally Marxists divide the situation after the overthrow of the bourgeois system by means of a workers› revolution into two main phases: the lower phase of communist society or socialism, and the upper phase or communism. The difference between these two phases in communism is explicated by Marx in The Critique of the Gotha Programme and by Lenin in The State and Revolution. The dictatorship of the proletariat is the political regime of the transition period between capitalism and communism, or, in other words, the lower phase of communist society, i.e. socialism. This is a correct expression and is accepted by all serious Marxists at this level.But considering what we said about «revolutionary periods» in the limited sense and the difference between these periods and the transition period in the broader sense, we must add that the above division and the concept of «transition period» is not yet concrete enough. Another question can still be posed: would society enter the «lower phase» of communist society immediately after the bourgeois state machinery is broken down? Do not more concrete phases exist in the process of transition and in the dictatorship of the proletariat as the state of the transition period?
I think here we should bring another arrangement of phases into the analysis. The dictatorship of the proletariat (or the transition period in general) comprise two important and more or less distinct periods. The first stage is the period of the political establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat and the second is the period of social transition under the «stabilised» dictatorship of the proletariat.
The first stage is one that begins immediately after the formation of the state of the dictatorship of the proletariat. This is a period in which the workers› state acts as a revolutionary provisional state of the workers, «a state of the revolutionary period». The basic task and priority of this state, like any state resulting from the insurrection, is the suppression of the inevitable and to the death resistance of the defeated reaction, i.e. the bourgeoisie, which endeavours for the restoration of its political power. The main characteristic of this period is the continuation of revolutionary crisis, the existence of an organised bourgeois counter-revolution, which would resort to force against the revolution, the objective possibility of the restoration of bourgeois power by political and military means, political instability, lack of confidence in the stabilization of the political power of the proletariat, and so on. To the extent that the state of the dictatorship of the proletariat should succeed in breaking down the resistance of the bourgeoisie, and should secure the political domination of the working class, this period would draw to a close. In other words, the dictatorship of the proletariat during the period is the «provisional government» of the dictatorship of the proletariat with the attributes of a revolutionary provisional government to which we referred earlier. The character and the methods of this state are characters and methods that are naturally linked with the process of the revolution and the insurrection itself. The organs of this state, the organisation of authority in this state, the legal and practical relation of the state to its own class, the component forces of this state and its leadership, are all formed naturally and in continuation of the process of the revolution, and are marked by the leadership, relations, component forces of the camp of the revolution.
The second period corresponds to the political stability of proletarian power. This is a period in which the dictatorship of the proletariat acts as a state in a «non-provisional» sense. Here the well-known Marxist definitions about the dictatorship of the proletariat as the direct organisation of the entire working class as the ruling class and the establishment of the most comprehensive proletarian democracy practically materialize. This is a «state» which has discarded its «crutches», has wiped out the marks of the process of its birth and inception, and displays in itself the political dominance of a social class in the real sense of the word, and the direct presence of the masses of this class in the process of decision-making and the running of the affairs. Here there is no longer any «provisional» element present in this dictatorship, unless in the general sense of the withering away of the state. This is no longer a «revolutionary provisional state», but the state corresponding to certain economics and social relations, and should be the direct reflection of these developing relations, and the guarantee for their development and completion.
The phases that we speak of here, in other words, correspond to two periods in the life of the dictatorship of the proletariat. First, the revolutionary period, i.e. the period in which the survival of the proletarian state is politically and militarily at risk, and the suppression of the political and military resistance of the bourgeoisie and the stabilization of the political victory of the revolution has priority. And the second period, the period of stability, in which the dictatorship of the proletariat can engage in transforming the economic foundations of society. In the first period we are faced with the dictatorship of the proletariat as a «state of revolutionary period» and in the second period with the dictatorship of the proletariat in the classic, comprehensive sense of the term, i.e. the dictatorship of the proletariat as the political superstructure of the entire period of transition between capitalism and communism. Obviously these two periods are not separated from each other with mathematical precision, but become distinct by virtue of the priority of different tasks for the dictatorship of the proletariat. These priorities are not arbitrary, but stem from objective conditions and the balance of forces of social classes. The distinction itself is not new to Marxism; may be what is new in our discussion is our conclusions and the importance we put to this phasing. Lenin’s different references during the October revolution prove that he has had such a classification about the attributes and the tasks of the dictatorship of the proletariat in mind:
The first task of every party of the future is to convince the majority of the people that its programme and tactics are correct. This task stood in the forefront both in Tsarist times and in the period of the Chernovs› and Tseretelis› policy of compromise with the Kerenskys› and Kishkins›. This task has now been fulfilled in the main, for, as the recent Congress of Soviets in Moscow incontrovertibly proved, the majority of the workers and peasants of Russia are obviously on the side of the Bolsheviks; but of course, it is far from being completely fulfilled…
The second task that confronted our party was to capture political power and to suppress the resistance of the exploiters. This task has not been completely fulfilled either, and it cannot be ignored because the monarchists and Constitutional-Democrats on the one hand, and their henchmen and hangers-on, the Mensheviks and Right Socialist-Revolutionaries, on the other, are continuing their efforts to unite for the purpose of overthrowing soviet power. In the main, however, the task of suppressing the resistance of the exploiters was fulfilled in the period from October 25, 1917, to (approximately) February 1918, or to the surrender of Bogayevsky.
A third task is now coming to the fore as the immediate task and one which constitutes the peculiar feature of the present situation, namely, the task of organising administration of Russia. Of course, we advanced and tackled this task on the very day following October 25, 1917. Up to now, however, since the resistance of the exploiters still took the form of open civil war, the task of administration could not become the main, the central task.
(The Immediate Tasks of the Soviet Government, April 1918, Vol.27, pp.241-242. Underlines in the original)
Indeed, the coming through of the state of the Soviets and the nullification of the militaristic and conspiratorial activities of the bourgeoisie, both internal and international, to overthrow this state took much longer than the period between October 1917 and February 1918. The point is also clear that after the «second task» (or the first task after assuming power), the dictatorship of the proletariat should have given priority to more than just «the administration of affairs» of Russia, and it did so. But at any rate this formulation, i.e. the distinction between tasks which are given priority in turn and beyond the will of the vanguard party of the working class into the two categories of «suppressing the resistance of the exploiters» and «running the affairs», indeed correspond to the same description that we gave in our arrangement of periods. The first period is the period in which proletarian power should establish itself unquestionably, and vanquish the bourgeoisie in a battle of force. The second period is the period of «administering» or in the broader sense, of the organisation of society according to the political sovereignty of the proletariat, or the period of transition in the broader economic, social, and cultural sense. Note that these «priorities» in tasks are not the product of the deliberate choice of the party, but a situation inevitably necessitated by the very resistance of the bourgeoisie and the intensity and form of this resistance.
In the same article, Lenin gives a more condensed formulation of this division into phases in the dictatorship of the proletariat:
In every socialist revolution, after the proletariat has solved the problem of capturing power, and to the extent that the task of expropriating the expropriators and suppressing their resistance has been carried out in the main, there necessarily comes to the forefront the fundamental task of creating a social system superior to capitalism, namely, raising the productivity of labour, and in this connection (and for this purpose) securing better organisation of labour. Our soviet state is precisely in the position where, thanks to the victories over exploiters – from Kerensky to Kornilov – it is able to approach this task directly, to tackle it in earnest. And here it becomes immediately clear that while it is possible to take over the central government in a few days, while it is possible to suppress the military resistance (and sabotage) of the exploiters even in different parts of a great country in a few weeks, the capital solution of the problem of raising the productivity of labour requires, at all events… several years. (Ibid, p.257)
Here again we are going to bypass the question whether the state of the Soviets in April 1918 had indeed left the first stage, i.e. that of the suppression of the exploiters behind, also whether «raising the productivity of labour» and only «to this purpose», «the better organisation of social work» is the suitable expression for the «ordinary» tasks of the dictatorship of the proletariat. For the moment, the main point for us is the interest Lenin shows in the division into phases and the historical sequence of practical priorities and the tasks of the dictatorship of the proletariat – a division which we think should have been given, theoretically, a more important role in formulating the viewpoints of the Bolsheviks about the tasks and perspectives of the October revolution.
The first practical conclusion for us in emphasizing this division of phases in the period of the dictatorship of the proletariat is in fact a defence of the Soviet state in Lenin’s time against the «democratic» critics of this state. Secondly, in the same context, this division of phases allows us to place Lenin’s views and formulations in the period after the October revolution in its real historical context, and therefore study more carefully Lenin’s viewpoint and practical methodology in the course of this process. Thirdly, this division of periods would allow us to better scrutinize and analyse some decisive weak points in the movement of the Bolsheviks, which eventually brought about most undesirable consequences in the course of the October revolution. And, fourthly, we are able on the basis of this division of phases to give a relatively clearer picture of the practical strategy of the proletariat after assuming power – a vital task if the frustrations of proletarian revolutions are to be avoided. Here I shall not deal with these in any detail, but will briefly refer to some headings and leave further explanation to later occasions.
If we look into Lenin’s work carefully we see two distinct approaches to the dictatorship of the proletariat, or, in other words, two different formulations of this state. If we do not consider the different phases, these formulations may even appear contradictory. In the light of making a distinction between these periods, this contradiction will clear itself up. It is said on the one hand (and Lenin himself is a major theorizer of this view) that the dictatorship of the proletariat is the direct and organised mass and proletarian democracy. The multitudes of the working class appear directly in their mass organs of power as legislators, executors of the law, and judges. The state loses its character as a special organ of force and turns into the organisation of the working class as the ruling class and the general organisation for the running of society. This is the picture of the dictatorship of the proletariat that we ourselves give concisely in the programme of the Communist Party. On the other hand we observe, both in the literature and in the practice of the Bolsheviks, interpretations and methods which in the first look appear the opposite of this formulation of the dictatorship of the proletariat. For example, it is Lenin himself who says, in discussions about the management of production units and the controversy between factory committees and unions over the workers› control, that the dictatorship of the proletariat can manifest itself in the «dictatorship of the party» and even «dictatorship of an individual». In practice also we see that Lenin and the Bolsheviks, i.e. the supporters and banner-bearers of the Marxist theory of the dictatorship of the proletariat as a form of the superior proletarian democracy, in many instances taking position in favour of steps which increased the control of the party and the Council of the People’s Commissariats and the state in general over the economy and politics of the society, and, at that, against the control and the direct enforcement of the will of the masses, and their directly elected institutions such as the soviets. Historians habitually account for this second approach by the «backwardness of Russia» and «the pragmatism» of the Bolsheviks, and the «democratic» critics of the Bolsheviks find in it the «beginning of bureaucratism» and «the violation of Marxist principles». These latter interpretations and what actually took place even at the time of Lenin’s life towards the formation of a centralized state power more or less beyond the direct action of working-class masses, has fed various critical trends which criticized the socialist October revolution from a «democratic» stand. Council Communists, the Workers› Opposition, and the Democratic-Centralist faction (inside the Soviet Union itself), the New Left, Trotskyism, Eurocommunism, and others all share this «democratic criticism» of the Russian experience.
Making a distinction between the two above-mentioned periods in the process of the proletarian revolution would to a large extent explain the reason for these «dual» and apparently «pragmatic» interpretations of the Bolsheviks. Indeed most of the «centralist» steps taken by the proletarian state in the first few years of the revolution as well as the economic steps which were wrongly labelled «War Communism» (as well as the NEP after that) were actions consistent not with the dictatorship of the proletariat in the broad and comprehensive sense of the term, but with requirements of ascertaining and consolidating proletarian power, i.e. «the provisional government» of the dictatorship of proletariat in Russia. It is possible today, from the vantage point of seventy years of re-examination, to think of «better actions» feasible for the Bolsheviks even in this very framework, but at any rate, what was carried out was the political, administrative, and economic acts of a provisional revolutionary proletarian state, i.e. the dictatorship of the proletariat in the revolutionary period, for the maintenance and establishment of the political power of the working class against the resistance and the conspiracies of the bourgeoisie, not actions suited to the promised, pre-defined tasks and objectives of the dictatorship of the proletariat in the comprehensive sense. The same force which organises the insurrection, places the soviets in the position of accepting a fait accompli, the same force which leads and relies on the vanguard section of the working class, the same force which despite opposition from other sections of the working class under the influence of the Mensheviks and peasants who support the S.R.s, has introduced the idea of transferring the power to the soviets, and organised the act of force to overthrow the bourgeois state and the real transference of power, the same force, inevitably and obligated by objective political conditions, finds itself naturally in the position of leading the process of the continuation of the revolution «from above» and suppressing the armed resistance of the bourgeoisie, and must carry out the task with the same degree of decisiveness. It is in the nature of any real revolutionary provisional state to be the organisation of the most active section of the revolutionary classes, i.e. that of the actual insurrectionary masses. The «democratic» expectation that the dictatorship of the proletariat have an elective, democratic structure on November 8, 1917, and be the «democratic» organisation of the working class as the ruling class, as Marx and Lenin themselves describe, is the wrong expectation. This is a wrong assumption in which the attributes of the revolutionary period and the character of the revolutionary state as the product of an uprising in such a period are ignored. In this kind of «criticism» the difference between the attributes of the dictatorship of the proletariat in the revolutionary period immediately after the insurrection, and the proletarian state in the conditions after the stabilization of workers› power is forgotten. The condition for the establishment of the latter is the formation of the former, on the basis of the ability and the energy of the most advanced section of the working class by means of maintaining the continuity between revolutionary ranks before and after the uprising. «Insurrection in the two capitals», and that with the help of soviets that had just turned to Bolshevik positions, naturally made the proletariat of «the two capitals» and the Bolsheviks who had risen, into the material and the main source of the immediate force of the provisional revolutionary state and its foundations. Naturally the forms of the functioning of this state could not be immediately anything other than the continuation of the traditions and methods of struggle hitherto used by the forces which had risen.
If we bring the above-mentioned division of phases in the period of transition into our analysis, we can better understand the reason for the duality in Lenin’s concepts of the dictatorship of the proletariat. Concepts which refer to the party, to centralism, the inevitability of action «from above» the democratic institutions, etc. all refer to this «provisional state» and the conditions of the revolutionary period, particularly the risk of the restoration of bourgeois power. The broader and more basic concepts which characterize the dictatorship of the proletariat with the element of extensive working-class democracy, refer to the more comprehensive, long- term meaning of this dictatorship, after the dictatorship of the proletariat is ascertained and established.
The same duality in concepts can be observed in the economic tasks of the dictatorship of the proletariat or the economic condition corresponding to the dictatorship of the proletariat. On the one hand we have theCritique of the Gotha Programme and general pictures of the lower phase of communism (socialism), as well as various statements by Lenin himself about building «an economic system superior to capitalism», and on the other hand we have concepts which can, for instance, induce the idea that the economics of «the period of transition» can be «state monopoly capitalism». Here, once more, these ambiguities can largely be erased by distinguishing between two phases in the dictatorship of the proletariat. In the first phase, where economy is practically and by virtue of objective political conditions, only a back-up for politics and a factor in maintaining the power of the workers› state in the process of suppressing the bourgeoisie, various forms, including state monopoly capitalism or even the alternative of the Workers› Opposition, may be accepted as the economic method which should temporarily be implemented, through the expropriation of the expropriators and in place of the abolished bourgeois ownership. But in the second phase organising of an economics in keeping with «the organisation of the working class as the ruling class» and with direct democracy and workers› decision-making through the soviets concerning their political and economic destiny, and with planning according to needs, etc. should seriously be undertaken. No doubt War Communism, NEP, or state monopoly capitalism cannot be the goal for whose sake Marx has taken the trouble in the Critique of the Gotha Programme to explain the outlines of the first phase of communist society, and which Lenin calls «the economic system superior to capitalism».
Unfortunately this division into periods of the dictatorship of the proletariat was not emphasised in the discussions of the Bolsheviks as it should have been. Lenin, in fact, did not live for the proletarian state to enter the second phase. During the major part when Lenin was still alive, the dictatorship of the proletariat was practically threatened politically and militarily by the bourgeoisie and at any rate not only did the proletariat not find the opportunity to start a period of economic and social «construction» in its own way, but was practically all the time facing the economic consequences of the world war and the period of civil war, which had lowered the real level of production and consumption to much below that of the 1913 Russia. Nonetheless Lenin personally and other Bolshevik thinkers provided concepts in explaining the actions of the first years of the workers› state and the methods that were forced upon the state in the political, administrative and economic spheres, which were wrongly extended to the characteristics of the dictatorship of the proletariat in general. In my view a large part of Lenin’s work in relation to these actions should be read with the assumption that he is explicating emergency steps and administrative relations suited to a revolutionary period. That Lenin himself does not bring more seriously and conspicuously into his analyses his views in 1905 about the difference between the «provisional revolutionary government» and «states which would implement the tasks of the revolution in general», that he does not use as he should the distinctions quoted above as a very important theoretical source in adapting a more cohesive strategy for the process of the development of the proletarian state in Russia, is itself the outcome of a historical condition in which he is placed. First, according to Bolshevik thinking «the second phase of the dictatorship of the proletariat» was practically visualized in the context of a world revolution and was never practically and concretely -except in the years 1924-26 in the discussions on socialism in one country – seriously attended to and concretely analysed. (And in 1924-26 it was in effect given a bourgeois answer). Hope in the world revolution caused the Bolsheviks to draw their horizons as far as «maintaining power» and «doing the maximum possible» until the advent of the world revolution in the near future, and pay no great theoretical attention to the issue of the details of the social, administrative, and economic transition in the confines of Russia. (This itself is yet another indication of the fact that in expressing his views on the economic and administrative content of the dictatorship of the proletariat, particularly where he gives limited formulations of the issue, Lenin actually has the «first phase» in mind). Second, it is the nature of revolutionaries to act in the revolutionary period instead of theorizing. In studying Lenin’s views in this period we should note that as a political leader he is always engaged in promoting desirable processes and discarding undesirable ones, and his speeches and articles, therefore, are not at all times positive theoretical papers, but in most cases political defences of certain practical policies and positions. The basis of all these statements is a principled theoretical Marxist approach. There is no doubt about that. But these very speeches and articles do not in themselves give a positive and detailed explanation of this theory. For example, the statement: «socialism means electrification plus soviet power» is not a new theoretical formulation and definition of socialism. It is a political and agitational campaign to build the new economy. It is a practical struggle for socialism. To understand Lenin’s theoretical viewpoint during this turbulent period, we should study his statement and practice in the context of real historical conditions. It is here that I believe that any careful study of Lenin’s work unambiguously proves and emphasises his coherent theoretical stand about the attributes of the proletarian state in revolutionary periods, of which I gave only a few examples here.
At any rate, the absence of a clear picture of the process of development of the dictatorship of the proletariat, and the passing of this dictatorship through various stages, turned into a serious theoretical weakness of the Bolsheviks in facing the future problems of the proletarian revolution. To this I shall refer later. Here it is necessary to emphasise a few points to prevent possible ambiguities and problems:
First: what I said does not in any way mean that the dictatorship of the proletariat is not in the first stage «the organisation of the working class as the ruling class». On the contrary, the issue consists entirely of the fact that the various forms of the organisation of the proletariat as the ruling class in these two periods should be distinguished. The Bolshevik state in Russia was the dictatorship of the proletariat and the organisation of the working class as the ruling class, in a period when this class is organised to suppress the resistance and conspiracies of the bourgeois counter-revolution. This is that specific form of the organisation of a class which is historically possible and vital. The relation of the class to the state is not basically dependent on any process of election and representational institution. Even if all soviets had actually voted to bring this state to power, the real authority of this state and the real allegiance of this state to the working class is proved by virtue of the real mobilization of the masses of the workers in supporting this state and under its leadership for the final suppression of the bourgeoisie. This is of the same kind of relationship that the revolutionary party establishes with the broad masses of its class. In the first phase of the dictatorship of the proletariat the proletariat’s vote for its own government is declared not by means of representational institutions, but by the actual mobilization and organisation of the entire class around this state.
Second: pointing the «unavoidable» limitations and peculiarities (not in detail) of the proletarian state in the revolutionary period is by no means to justify the entire activities of the first years of the October revolution. Nor does it mean underestimating the necessity and importance of workers› direct action by means of organs of mass power in these periods. On the contrary, again, separating these two periods would allow for the real importance of the direct action of the masses and proletarian democratism to be recognised and emphasised in each period. Our purpose was to emphasise in the first place the legitimacy of the role that the Bolshevik party assumed immediately after the October uprising in the state and organs of workers› exercise of power in Russia. Lenin’s state was the state of the dictatorship of the proletariat. Our discussion is a slice of a refutation of the subjective, perfectionist, and idealistic criticism levelled against the practice of the Bolsheviks in the first years of the October revolution from a basically «democratic» rather than socialist stand. Separating these two periods allows us to draw our line with this «democratic» criticism, and avail ourselves of one of the principled components of a socialist critique of the Soviet experience. At any rate at the end we shall refer to the problem of the importance of democracy and democratic institutions of proletarian power in the first period.
Third: In the present discussion we spoke of the proletarian revolution «in one country». The question is that the proletarian revolution in one country, that is, obtaining political power, should, in its continuation, be linked to a world revolution against capital. Does not this fact create any changes in the «phasing» of the dictatorship of the proletariat? In other words, is not the idea of the beginning of the second period in «one country» contradictory to a world revolution against capital? Should not the first phrase of the dictatorship of the proletariat find its continuation in the extension of «the revolutionary period» on a world scale? We hope that real history should follow this course next time, but theoretically it cannot be proved that the political victory of the proletariat in one country should deterministically, or according to the will of the proletarian state in mind, coincide with the world revolution. This did not happen in 1917. The proletariat must recognise the course of development of its state in one country. Our discussion deals with this issue. As for the world revolution, I must say at least this, that in my opinion the proletariat which can really in the shortest interval possible begin the «second period», i.e. a proletariat which can as a ruling class, be organised on the basis of extensive proletarian democracy, and begin the «organisation of an economy superior to capitalism» would definitely be a more active, effective and consistent element in the arena of international battle with the bourgeoisie than the working class which pressed by the bourgeoisie, painfully holds its rule together by means of emergency economic and administrative measures «waiting for the world revolution to occur». That in Russia «the organisation of the national economy» eventually replaced the economic tasks of the proletariat in the transition period, should not cause any serious Marxist to draw the conclusion that inevitably the revolutionary organisation of the post-revolutionary society in its economic and administrative dimensions is contradictory to internationalism. The proletariat should not have to account for the practices of the bourgeoisie. The more decisively and comprehensively the dictatorship of the proletariat in one country should act in carrying out its political and economic tasks, the more would there be the real possibility of turning this political and economic power into a source of international revolution. This at any rate is an issue which lies beyond our specific discussion about the proletarian state in the revolutionary period.
It is necessary at the end to refer to the practical importance of the theoretical weakness in the Russian revolution. The absence of a clear formulation of the various stages of the development and evolution of the dictatorship of the proletariat, both in the programme of the Bolsheviks and in the general education of vanguard and revolutionary workers in the October revolution, was an important factor in the theoretical unpreparedness which played a part in the final failure of this revolution. To begin with, the methods of the «provisional» revolutionary state were in some cases theorized as the methods of the revolutionary proletarian dictatorship in general. The «provisional» aspect of the character and practice of the state in the particular conditions of the first years after the revolution were less appreciated. This allowed opportunist and anarchist interpretations to grow in the party. Opportunism and bureaucratism turned into the common form of responding to anarcho-syndicalist tendencies and criticisms, and anarcho-syndicalism and liberalism in turn turned into the common form of criticism of bureaucratism and reformism. The principled Leninist position, which came from a correct understanding of the immediate requirements of the dictatorship of the proletariat was not expressed clearly and strongly enough against these two poles. For instance, the need for strengthening centralism in the party, the inevitability of the relative correspondence of the functions of the party and state, and the need for concentration and the speed in decision-making in a certain temporary period was not defended in a principled way and by drawing the broader perspective of the revolution. These methods, in the absence of analyses which would in a principled way make the temporary character of these steps reliant on the various stages of the political development of Russian society and the process of the transition of the dictatorship of the proletariat from the revolutionary period to the period of political stability, were fortuitously generalized and turned into more or less unchangeable principles. For example, particularly in discussions about workers› control and the administration of production units, the principled positions of the Bolsheviks (in its basic points) consisting of subordinating the demand of workers› control from below to the principle of raising the coherence, scope of action and authority of the workers› state in the critical period 1917-21, were introduced by means of such eclectic and unconvincing formulations that in practice a large proportion of the most active and advanced workers› leaders in the factory committees, i.e. a section of the best elements of the industrial proletariat in Russia were disappointed in the party and estranged from it. Secondly, the Bolshevik state, as the state of the dictatorship of the proletariat in the revolutionary period, did not draw out the material and practical conditions of the real transference of all the power to the soviets and organs of mass power. Had the distinction between the revolutionary period and the period of stability, and the character and attributes of the workers› state in these two periods been made conspicuous, the process of the extensive organising of mass organs, and even more important, the increasing consolidation of their decision-making role (in contrast to the actual process that occurred) could and must have been seriously promoted in the very first phase of the dictatorship of the proletariat. When the workers› state actually broke down the power of the internal and international bourgeoisie, and in the years 1923-28 turned to the main discussion around the economic and administrative problems of the dictatorship of the proletariat in the new period, i.e. when the revolutionary state practically reached the end of the revolutionary period in the limited sense of the term, the lasting organs of the dictatorship of the proletariat, the soviets and the large masses of advanced and revolutionary workers were practically removed from the scene of active and direct participation in the decision-making process on the political and economic destiny of society. In the absence of sufficiently clear and formulated understanding of the transitional character of their tasks in relation to creating the dictatorship of the proletariat in the comprehensive and broad sense of the word, the Bolsheviks were practically prevented from consciously and consistently forming structures and institutions of this state and preparing ground for the transition from a provisional to an established state of the dictatorship of the proletariat. The Russian proletariat, unlike the French proletariat of the previous century, managed somehow, though deficiently, to complete the first phase of its dictatorship; it broke down the obvious resistance of the bourgeoisie, but it did not prepare itself for the period after this stage, and therefore lost the battle in the face of new forms of the offensive of the bourgeoisie in the area of ideology, economics, administration, and culture. Thirdly (and theoretically this may be the most important aspect of the problem) confusing the economics of the revolutionary period with that of the period of transition in general caused the absence of a clear perspective and accurate analysis of the economic tasks of the dictatorship of the proletariat as the state of the transition period. Both those who called the existing situation and the New Economic Policy (NEP) a condition and policy towards the building of socialism (Stalin and Bukharin) and those who pointed to the capitalist and temporary character of these steps (Zinoviev, Kropskaya, and others) failed to define the revolutionary economic tasks specific to the dictatorship of the proletariat in the transition period. Both the bourgeois economic nationalism and industrialism which, eventually in the name of socialism in one country by the majority in the Party under the leadership of Stalin started and completed the process of capitalist industrialisation in the real sense of the term in Russia, and the current of United Opposition (Trotsky-Zinoviev) who started from the same economic premises, and hid its lack of alternative in this area behind the slogan of world revolution, flourished in the theoretical vacuum created in the absence of a clear and polished Leninist theory about the long-term economic tasks of the dictatorship of the proletariat. That such a theory was non-existent, or at any rate failed to become a material force, that Leninism was not represented in the economic discussions of 1924-28, can partly be explained by the fact that the horizon and perspective of transition from the dictatorship of the proletariat in the revolutionary period, when economy is subordinated to politics, into a state of the dictatorship of the proletariat in the broad sense of the term and with the task of an «economy superior to capitalism» was not seriously set before the conscious vanguard of the Russian working class. As was mentioned before, Lenin recognised the distinction between these different periods, and had referred to it on many occasions even during the October revolution in the periphery of other discussions. But the crucial discussions of the years 1924-28 suffered from the absence of this most able theoretical authority of the proletariat in the present century. Had Lenin been there, we would almost certainly be now equipped with a much clearer picture of the economic tasks of the dictatorship of the proletariat, because the 1924-28 discussions were exactly those which took place at the transition point of the dictatorship of the proletariat from the revolutionary period to the period of stability and «ordinary» functioning.
And finally there is a question to answer. If the existence of differences in tasks, character, and attributes of the dictatorship of the proletariat in the revolutionary period and its later stage is inevitable, natural, and acceptable, what assurance exists, or can exist, that this provisional proletarian state, with its specific methods and limitations, would give place to the dictatorship of the proletariat in the comprehensive sense. The answer is that the practical assurance of this process, like ensuring any other revolutionary change, lies entirely with the revolutionary practice of the advanced and conscious section of the working class. What was presented here is that having a clear political perspective and accurate understanding of the mechanisms of the development of the revolution and the objective stages that the proletarian revolution would inevitably, even though in various forms and with relative ease or difficulty, pass through, is a basic condition for the correct, and «assuring» practice. If an understanding of the difference between these two distinct forms of the embodiment and realization of the dictatorship of the proletariat should not automatically ensure anything about the successful transition from these stages (and it won’t) failure to understand this would certainly insure failure. The proletariat which in the years 1924-28 was disarmed against bourgeois nationalism in Russia, and was totally defeated in the next decade, had various theoretical and practical shortcomings. One of these was the absence of an accurate economic, political, and administrative picture of the dictatorship of the proletariat after the breakdown of the open resistance of the bourgeoisie. This understanding could only be formed when the proletariat could clearly recognise the temporary character of the form of the state in which it had so far embodied its class dictatorship, and prepared beforehand for its substitution with forms suited to the new period. The question of the state in revolutionary periods is a small part of a vast area that should be studied to avoid previous defeats. Our discussion here is merely an effort to introduce the question as an important theoretical problematic.
Besooy-e-Sosyalism. I.e., Towards Socialism, the theoretical-political journal of the organisation of Unity of Communist Militants published from July 1980 until August 1983. After the formation of the Communist Party of Iran in September 1983 it was published as the theoretical journal of the CPI – Translator’s note.