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What Immediate And Universal Preparation for the Dictatorship of the Proletariat Should Consist of


Theses on Fundamental Tasks of The Second Congress Of The Communist International

30 June, 1920

Collected Works, Volume 31, pages 184-201

What Immediate And Universal Preparation for the Dictatorship of the Proletariat Should Consist of

5.The present stage in the development of the international communist movement is marked by the fact that in the vast majority of capitalist countries, the proletariat’s preparations to effect its dictatorship have not been completed, and, in many cases, have not even been systematically begun. From this it does not, however, follow that the proletarian revolution is impossible in the immediate future; it is perfectly possible, since the entire economic and political situation is most inflammable and abounds in causes of a sudden flare-up; the other condition for revolution, apart from the proletariat’s preparedness, viz., a general state of crisis in all the ruling and in all bourgeois parties, also exists. However, it does follow that the Communist Parties’ current task consists not in accelerating the revolution, but in intensifying the preparation of the proletariat. On the other hand, the facts cited above from the history of many socialist parties make it incumbent on us to see that “recognition” of the dictatorship of the proletariat shall not remain a more matter of words.

Hence, from the point of view of the international proletarian movement, it is the Communist parties ’ principal task at the present moment to unite the scattered Communist forces, to form a single Communist Party in every country (or to reinforce or renovate the already existing Party) in order to increase tenfold the work of preparing the proletariat for the conquest of political power—political power, moreover, in the form of the dictatorship of the proletariat. The ordinary socialist work conducted by groups and parties which recognise the dictatorship of the proletariat has by no means undergone that fundamental reorganisation, that fundamental renovation, which is essential before this work can be considered communist work and adequate to the tasks to be accomplished on the eve of proletarian dictatorship.

6.The proletariat’s conquest of political power does not put a stop to its class struggle against the bourgeoisie; on the contrary, it renders that struggle most widespread, intense and ruthless. Owing to the extreme intensification of the struggle all groups, parties and leaders in the working-class movement who have fully or partly adopted the stand of reformism, of the “Centre”, etc., inevitably side with the bourgeoisie or join the waverers, or else (what is the most dangerous of all) land in the ranks of the unreliable friends of the victorious proletariat. Hence, preparation for the dictatorship of the proletariat calls, not only for an intensification of the struggle against reformist and “Centrist” tendencies, but also for a change in the character of that struggle. The struggle cannot be restricted to explaining the erroneousness of these tendencies; it must unswervingly and ruthlessly expose any leader of the working-class movement who reveals such tendencies, for otherwise the proletariat cannot know who it will march with into the decisive struggle against the bourgeoisie. This struggle is such that at any moment it may—and actually does, as experience has shown—substitute criticism with weapons for the weapon of criticism.[6] Any inconsistency or weakness in exposing those who show themselves to be reformists or “Centrists” means directly increasing the danger of the power of the proletariat being overthrovn by the bourgeoisie, which tomorrow will utilise for the counter-revolution that which short-sighted people today see merely as “theoretical difference”.

7.In particular, we must not restrict ourselves to the usual repudiation, in principle, of all collaboration between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, of all “collaborationism”. Under the dictatorship of the proletariat, which will never be able, at one stroke, to abolish private property completely, mere defence of “liberty”’ and “equality”, while private ownership of the means of production is preserved, turns into “collaboration” with the bourgeoisie, and undermines the rule of the working class. The dictatorship of the proletariat means that the state uses its whole machinery of power to uphold and perpetuate “no-liberty” for the exploiters to continue their oppression and exploitation, “inequality” between the owner of property (i.e., one who has appropriated for himself certain means of production created by social labour) and the non-owner. That which, prior to the victory of the proletariat, seems merely a theoretical difference on the question of “democracy” inevitably becomes, on the day following victory, a question that is settled by force of arms. Consequently, even preliminary work in preparing the masses to effect the dictatorship of the proletariat is impossible without a radical change in the entire character of the struggle against the “Centrists” and the “champions of democracy “.

8.The dictatorship of the proletariat is the most determined and revolutionary form of the proletariat’s class struggle against the bourgeoisie. This struggle can be successful only when the most revolutionary vanguard of the proletariat has the backing of the overwhelming majority of the proletariat. Hence, preparation for the dictatorship of the proletariat entails not only explanation of the bourgeois character of all reformism, of all defence of democracy, while private ownership of the means of production is preserved; it entails, not only exposure of such trends, which are in fact a defence of the bourgeoisie within the labour movement; it also calls for old leaders being replaced by Communists in proletarian organisations of absolutely every type—not only political, but also trade union, co-operative, educational, etc. The more complete, lengthy and firmly established the rule of bourgeois democracy has been in a given country, the more the bourgeoisie will have succeeded in securing the appointment to such leading posts of people whose minds have been moulded by it and imbued with its views and prejudices, and who have very often been directly or indirectly bought by it. These representatives of the labour aristocracy, bourgeoisified workers, should be ousted from all their posts a hundred times more sweepingly than hitherto, and replaced by workers—even by wholly inexperienced men, provided they are connected with the exploited masses and enjoy their confidence in the struggle against the exploiters. The dictatorship of the proletariat will require the appointment of such inexperienced workers to the most responsible posts in the state; otherwise the workers’ government will be impotent and will not have the support of the masses.

9.The dictatorship of the proletariat means that all toiling and exploited people, who have been disunited, deceived, intimidated, oppressed, downtrodden and crushed by the capitalist class, come under the full leadership of the only class trained for that leadership by the whole history of capitalism. That is why the following is one of the methods whereby preparations for the dictatorship of the proletariat should be started everywhere and immediately:

In all organisations, unions and associations without exception, and first and foremost in proletarian organisations, but also in those of the non-proletarian toiling and exploited masses (political, trade union, military, co-operative, educational, sports, etc., etc.), groups or cells of Communists should be formed—preferably open groups, but underground groups as well, the latter being essential whenever there is reason to expect their suppression, or the arrest or banishment of their members on the part of the bourgeoisie; these cells, which are to be in close touch with one another and with the Party centre, should, by pooling their experience, carrying on work of agitation, propaganda and organisation, adapting themselves to absolutely every sphere of public life and to every variety and category of the toiling masses, systematically educate themselves, the Party, the class, and the masses by means of such diversified work.

In this connection, it is of the utmost importance that necessary distinctions between the methods of work should be evolved in practice: on the one hand, in relation to the “leaders”, or “responsible representatives”, who are very often hopelessly beset with petty-bourgeois and imperialist prejudices—such “leaders” must be ruthlessly exposed and expelled from the working-class movement—and, on the other hand, in relation to the masses, who, particularly after the imperialist holocaust, are for the most part inclined to listen to and accept the doctrine that the guidance from the proletariat is essential, as the only way of escape from capitalist slavery. We must learn to approach the masses with particular patience and caution so as to be able to understand the distinctive features in the mentality of each stratum, calling, etc., of these masses.

10.In particular, there is a group or cell of Communists that deserves exceptional attention and care from the Party, i.e., the parliamentary group of Party members, who are deputies to bourgeois representative institutions (primarily the national, but also local, municipal, etc., representative institutions). On the one hand, it is this tribune which is held in particular regard by large sections of the toiling masses, who are backward or imbued with petty-bourgeois prejudices; it is therefore imperative for Communists to utilise this tribune to conduct propaganda, agitation and organisational work and to explain to the masses why the dispersal of the bourgeois parliament by the national congress of Soviets was legitimate in Russia (and, at the proper time, will be legitimate in any country). On the other hand, the entire history of bourgeois democracy, particularly in the advanced countries, has converted the parliamentary rostrum into one of the principal, if not the principal, venues of unparalleled fraudulency, financial and political deception of the people, careerism, hypocrisy and oppression of the working people. The intense hatred of parliaments felt by the best representatives of the revolutionary proletariat is therefore quite justified. The Communist parties and all parties affiliated to the Third International—especially those which have not arisen by splitting away from the old parties and by waging a long and persistent struggle against them, but through the old parties accepting (often nominally) the new stand—should therefore adopt a most strict attitude towards their parliamentary groups; the latter must be brought under the full control and direction of the Central Committees of the Parties; they must consist, in the main, of revolutionary workers; speeches by members of parliament should be carefully analysed in the Party press and at Party meetings, from a strictly communist standpoint; deputies should be sent to carry on agitational work among the masses; those who manifest Second International leanings should be expelled from the parliamentary groups, etc.

11.One of the chief causes hampering the revolutionary working-class movement in the developed capitalist countries is the fact that because of their colonial possessions and the super-profits gained by finance capital, etc., the capitalists af these countries have been able to create a relatively larger and more stable labour aristocracy, a section which comprises a small minority of the working class. This minority enjoys better terms of employment and is most-imbued with a narrow-minded craft spirit and with petty-bourgeois and imperialist prejudices. It forms the real social pillar of the Second International, of the reformists and the “Centrists”; at present it might even be called the social mainstay of the bourgeoisie. No preparation of the proletariat for the overthrow of the bourgeoisie is possible, even in the preliminary sense, unless an immediate, systematic, extensive and open struggle is waged against this stratum, which, as experience has already fully shown, will no doubt provide the bourgeois White guards with many a recruit after the victory of the proletariat. All parties affiliated to the Third International must at all costs give effect to the slogans: “Deeper into the thick of the masses”, “Closer links with the masses”—meaning by the masses all those who toil and are exploited by capital, particularly those who are least organised and educated, who are most oppressed and least amenable to organisation.

The proletariat becomes revolutionary only insofar as it does not restrict itself to the narrow framework of craft interests, only when in all matters and spheres of public life, it acts as the leader of all the toiling and exploited masses; it cannot achieve its dictatorship unless it is prepared and able to make the greatest sacrifices for the sake of victory over the bourgeoisie. In this respect, the experience of Russia is significant both in principle and in practice. The proletariat could not have achieved its dictatorship there, or won the universally acknowledged respect and confidence of all the toiling masses, had it not made the most sacrifices, or starved more than any other section of those masses at the most crucial moments of the onslaught, war and blockade effected by the world bourgeoisie.

In particular, the Communist Party and all advanced proletarians must give all-round and unstinted support especially to the spontaneous and mass strike movement, which, under the yoke of capital, is alone capable of really rousing, educating and organising the masses, of imbuing them with complete confidence in the leadership of the revolutionary proletariat. Without such preparation, no dictatorship of the proletariat is possible; those who are capable of publicly opposing strikes, such as Kautsky in Germany and Turati in Italy, cannot possibly be tolerated in the ranks of parties affiliated to the Third International. This applies even more, of course, to those trade union and parliamentary leaders who so often betray the workers by using the experience of strikes to teach them reformism, and not revolution (for instance, in Britain and in France in recent years).

12.In all countries, even in those that are freest, most “legal”, and most “peaceful” in the sense that the class struggle is least acute there, it is now absolutely indispensable for every Communist Party to systematically combine legal and illegal work, legal and illegal organisations. Notwithstanding their false and hypocritical declarations, the governments of even the most enlightened and freest of countries, where the bourgeois-democratic system is most “stable”, are already systematically and secretly drawing up blacklists of Communists and constantly violating their own constitutions so as to give secret or semi-secret encouragement to the whiteguards and to the murder of Communists in all countries, making secret preparations for the arrest of Communists, planting agents provocateurs among the Communists, etc., etc. Only a most reactionary philistine, no matter what cloak of fine “democratic” and pacifist phrases he may don, will deny this fact or the conclusion that of necessity follows from it viz., that all legal Communist parties must immediately form illegal organisations for the systematic conduct of illegal work and for complete preparations for the moment the bourgeoisie resorts to persecution. Illegal work is most necessary in the army, the navy and the police because, since the imperialist holocaust, governments the world over have begun to stand in dread of people’s armies which are open to the workers and peasants, and are secretly resorting to all kinds of methods to set up military units specially recruited from the bourgeoisie and equipped with the most up-to-date weapons.

On the other hand, it is likewise necessary that, in all cases without exception, the parties should not restrict themselves to illegal work, but should conduct legal work as well, overcoming all obstacles, starting legal publications, and forming legal organisations under the most varied names, which should be frequently changed if necessary. This is being practised by the illegal Communist parties in Finland, Hungary, partly in Germany, Poland, Latvia, etc. It should be practised by the Industrial Workers of the World in the U.S.A. and by all Communist parties at present legal, should public prosecutors see fit to take proceedings against them on the grounds of resolutions adopted by Congresses of the Communist International, etc.

A combination of illegal and legal work is an absolute principle dictated, not only by all features of the present period, that of the eve of the proletarian dictatorship, but also by the necessity of proving to the bourgeoisie that there is not, nor can there be, any sphere of activity that cannot be won by the Communists; above all, it is dictated by the fact that broad strata of the proletariat and even broader strata of the non-proletarian toiling and exploited masses still exist everywhere, who continue to believe in bourgeois-democratic legality and whom we must undeceive without fail.

13.In particular, the conditions of the working-class press in most advanced capitalist countries strikingly reveal the utter fraudulency of liberty and equality under bourgeois democracy, as well as the necessity of systematically combining legal work with illegal work. Both in vanquished Germany and in victorious America, the entire power of the bourgeoisie’s machinery of state and all the machinations of the financial magnates are employed to deprive the workers of their press, these including legal proceedings, the arrest (or murder by hired assassins) of editors, denial of mailing privileges, the cutting off of paper supplies, and so on and so forth. Besides, the news services essential to daily newspapers are run by bourgeois telegraph agencies, while advertisements, without which a large newspaper cannot pay its way, depend on the “good will” of the capitalists. To sum up: through skulduggery and the pressure of capital and the bourgeois state, the bourgeoisie is depriving the revolutionary proletariat of its press.

To combat this, the Communist parties must create a new type of periodical press for mass distribution among the workers: first, legal publications, which, without calling themselves communist and without publicising their links with the Party, must learn to make use of any legal opportunity, however slight, just as the Bolsheviks did under the tsar, after 1905; secondly, illegal leaflets, even the briefest and published at irregular intervals, but reprinted at numerous printshops by workers (secretly, or, if the movement has become strong enough, by the revolutionary seizure of printshops), and providing the proletariat with outspoken revolutionary information and revolutionary slogans.

Preparations for the dictatorship of the proletariat is impossible without a revolutionary struggle, into which the masses are drawn, for the freedom of the communist press.

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