10
Jul
15

Correcting a pseudo-Marxist on use of the phrase “dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry”

The July 2 issue of the British leftist paper Weekly Worker included an article by Jack Conrad (central leader of the CPGB) “Truth, not myths, serve our cause” with a sub-head “Why do comrades on the left insist on repeating evident falsehoods about Lenin and the Bolsheviks, not least when it comes to 1917?” (http://weeklyworker.co.uk/worker/1065/truth-not-myths-serve-our-cause/).

There is much in this article that I believe is, lets say, a creative interpretation of history but one issue stood out in particular – Conrad’s defence of the phrase “dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry” as being a guide for the Bolsheviks right up to and including the October revolution.

I replied as follows in a letter published in the July 9 issue of WW (http://weeklyworker.co.uk/worker/1066/letters/).

Jack Conrad ends his meandering piece, ‘Truth, not myths, serve our cause’ (July 2), claiming Lenin’s continuity of political perspective in 1917, as follows:

“The Russian Revolution had gone further than the classical bourgeois revolutions of England 1645 or France 1789, but ‘has not yet reached a ‘pure’ dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry’.

“This final quote is from Lenin’s ‘The tasks of the proletariat in our revolution’, a draft platform dated April 10 1917. I see development, concrete application, yes. But, no ‘abandonment’, no ‘break’ with the old slogan for a ‘revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry’.”

Jack would perhaps do well to dwell on Lenin’s more substantive discussion of this issue outlined in his Letters on tactics, also written and published in April 1917:

“‘The revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry’ has already become a reality in the Russian Revolution, for this ‘formula’ envisages only a relation of classes, and not a concrete political institution implementing this relation, this cooperation. ‘The Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies’ – there you have the ‘revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry’ already accomplished in reality.

“This formula is already antiquated. Events have moved it from the realm of formulas into the realm of reality, clothed it with flesh and bone, concretised it and thereby modified it.

“A new and different task now faces us: to effect a split within this dictatorship between the proletarian elements (the anti-defencist, internationalist, ‘communist’ elements, who stand for a transition to the commune) and the small-proprietor or petty bourgeois elements (Chkheidze, Tsereteli, Steklov, the Socialist Revolutionaries and the other revolutionary defencists, who are opposed to moving towards the commune and are in favour of ‘supporting’ the bourgeoisie and the bourgeois government).

“The person who now speaks only of a ‘revolutionary democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry’ is behind the times; consequently he has in effect gone over to the petty bourgeoisie against the proletarian class struggle; that person should be consigned to the archive of ‘Bolshevik’ pre-revolutionary antiques (it may be called the archive of ‘old Bolsheviks’).”

At a purely pedantic level, Jack is correct that Lenin does not use the exact terms, ‘abandonment’ or ‘break’ in reference to “revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry”, but it is pretty clear what Lenin in April 1917 now thinks about this slogan – it is antiquated and suitable only for the archives.

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