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Archive for the ‘Vladimir Ilich Lenin’ Category

“Drive nature out of the door and she will rush back through the window.” It seems that the Socialist-Revolutionary and Menshevik parties have to “learn” this simple truth time and again by their own experience. They under took to be “revolutionary democrats” and found themselves in the shoes of revolutionary democrats—they are now forced to draw the conclusions which every revolutionary democrat must draw.

Democracy is the rule of the majority. As long as the will of the majority was not clear, as long as it was possible to make it out to be unclear, at least with a grain of plausibility, the people were offered a counter-revolutionary bourgeois government disguised as “democratic.” But this delay could not last long. During the several months that have passed since February 27 the will of the majority of the workers and peasants, of the overwhelming majority of the country’s population, has become clear in more than a general sense. Their will has found expression in mass organisations—the Soviet’s of Workers’, Soldiers’ and Peasants’ Deputies.

How, then, can anyone oppose the transfer of all power in the state to the Soviets? Such opposition means nothing but renouncing democracy! It means no more no less than imposing on the people a government which admittedly can neither come into being nor hold its ground democratically, i.e., as a result of truly free, truly popular elections.

It is a face, strange as it may seem at first sight, that the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks have forgotten this perfectly simple, perfectly obvious and palpable truth. Their position is so false, and they are so badly confused and bewildered, that they are unable to “recover” this truth they have lost. Following the elections in Petrograd and in Moscow, the convocation of the All-Russia Peasant Congress, and the Congress of Soviets, the classes and parties throughout Russia have shown what they stand for so clearly and specifically that people who have not gone mad or deliberately got themselves into a mess and simply cannot have any illusions on this score.

To tolerate the Cadet Ministers or the Cadet government or Cadet policies means challenging democrats and democracy. This is the source of the political crises since February 27, and this also the source of the shakiness and vacillation of our government system. At every turn, daily and even hourly, appeals are being made to the people’s revolutionary spirit and to their democracy on behalf of the most authoritative government institutions and congresses. Yet the government’s policies in particular, are all departures from revolutionary principles, and breaches in democracy.

This sort of thing will not do.

It is inevitable that a situation like the present should show elements of instability now for one reason, now for another. And it is not exactly a clever policy of jib. Things are moving by fits and starts towards a point where power will be transferred to the Soviets, which is what our Party called for long ago.

Source: First published in Pravda No. 99, July 18, 1917
Public Domain: Lenin Internet Archive

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The [Russian] Social Democratic Party, as the conscious exponent of the working-class movement, aims at the complete liberation of the toiling masses from every form of oppression and exploitation. The achievement of this objective—the abolition of private property in the means of production and the creation of the socialist society—calls for a very high development of the productive forces of capitalism and a high degree of organisation of the working class. The full development of the productive forces in modern bourgeois society, a broad, free, and open class struggle, and the political education, training, and rallying of the masses of the proletariat are inconceivable without political freedom. Therefore it has always been the aim of the class-conscious proletariat to wage a determined struggle for complete political freedom and the democratic revolution.

The proletariat is not alone in setting this task before itself. The bourgeoisie, too, needs political freedom. The enlightened members of the propertied classes hung out the banner of liberty long ago; the revolutionary intelligentsia, which comes mainly from these classes, has fought heroically for freedom. But the bourgeoisie as a whole is incapable of waging a determined struggle against the autocracy; it fears to lose in this struggle its property which binds it to the existing order; it fears an all-too revolutionary action of the workers, who will not stop at the democratic revolution but will aspire to the socialist revolution; it fears a complete break with officialdom, with the bureaucracy, whose interests are bound up by a thousand ties with the interests of the propertied classes. For this reason the bourgeois struggle for liberty is notoriously timorous, inconsistent, and half-hearted. One of the tasks of the proletariat is to prod the bourgeoisie on, to raise before the whole people slogans calling for a complete democratic revolution, to start working boldly and independently for the realisation of these slogans—in a word, to be the vanguard, to take the lead in the struggle for the liberty of the whole people.

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Vladimir Ilich Lenin

A few numbers of the Berlin Red Banner and the Vienna Call (Weckruf) , organ of the Communist Party of German Austria, that have reached Moscow, showed that the traitors to socialism — those who supported the war of the predatory imperialists — the Scheidemanns and Kautskys, Austerlitzes and Renners [All who were far right German Social-Democrats] — are getting the rebuff they deserve from these genuine representatives of the revolutionary workers of Germany and Austria. We extend warm greetings to both papers, which epitomise the vitality and growth of the Third International.

Apparently the chief question of the revolution both in Germany and Austria now is: Constituent Assembly or Soviet government? The spokesmen of the bankrupt Second International, all the way from Scheidemann to Kautsky, stand for the first and describe their stand as defense of “democracy” (Kautsky has even gone so far as to call it “pure democracy”) as distinct from dictatorship. In the pamphlet The Proletarian Revolution and Renegade Kautsky , which has just come off the press in Moscow and Petrograd, I examine Kautsky’s views in detail. I shall try briefly to give the substance of the point at issue, which has become the question of the day for all the advanced capitalist countries.

The Scheidemanns and Kautsky’s speak about “pure democracy” and “democracy” in general for the purpose of deceiving the people and concealing from them the bourgeois character of present-day democracy. Let the bourgeoisie continue to keep the entire apparatus of state power in their hands, let a handful of exploiters continue to use the former, bourgeois, state machine! Elections held in such circumstances are lauded by the bourgeoisie, for very good reasons, as being “free”, “equal”, “democratic” and “universal”. These words are designed to conceal the truth, to conceal the fact that the means of production and political power remain in the hands of the exploiters, and that therefore real freedom and real equality for the exploited, that is, for the vast majority of the population, are out of the question. It is profitable and indispensable for the bourgeoisie to conceal from the people the bourgeois character of modern democracy, to picture it as democracy in general or “pure democracy”, and the Scheidemanns and Kautskys, repeating this, in practice abandon the standpoint of the proletariat and side with the bourgeoisie.

Marx and Engels in their last joint preface to the Communist Manifesto (in 1872)[A] considered it necessary to specifically warn the workers that the proletariat cannot simply lay hold of the ready-made (that is, the bourgeois) state machine and wield it for their own purpose, but that they must smash it, break it up. The renegade Kautsky, who has written a special pamphlet entitled dictatorship of the proletariat, concealed from the workers this most important Marxist truth, utterly distorted Marxism, and, quite obviously, the praise which Scheidemann and Co. showered on the pamphlet was fully merited as praise by agents of the bourgeoisie for one switching to the side of the bourgeoisie.

It is sheer mockery of the working and exploited people to speak of pure democracy, of democracy in general, of equality, freedom and universal rights when the workers and all working people are ill-fed, ill-clad, ruined and worn out, not only as a result of capitalist wage slavery, but as a consequence of four years of predatory war, while the capitalists and profiteers remain in possession of the “property” usurped by them and the “ready-made” apparatus of state power. This is tantamount to trampling on the basic truths of Marxism which has taught the workers: you must take advantage of bourgeois democracy which, compared with feudalism, represents a great historical advance, but not for one minute must you forget the bourgeois character of this “democracy”, it’s historical conditional and limited character. Never share the “superstitious belief” in the “state” and never forget that the state even in the most democratic republic, and not only in a monarchy, is simply a machine for the suppression of one class by another.

The bourgeoisie are compelled to be hypocritical and to describe as “popular government”, democracy in general, or pure democracy, the ( bourgeois ) democratic republic which is, in practice, the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, the dictatorship of the exploiters over the working people. The Scheidemanns and Kautskys, the Austerlitzes and Renners (and now, to our regret, with the help of Friedrich Adler) fall in line with this falsehood and hypocrisy. But Marxists, Communists, expose this hypocrisy, and tell the workers and the working people in general this frank and straightforward truth: the democratic republic, the Constituent Assembly, general elections, etc., are, in practice, the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, and for the emancipation of labor from the yoke of capital there is no other way but to replace this dictatorship with the dictatorship of the proletariat.

The dictatorship of the proletariat alone can emancipate humanity from the oppression of capital, from the lies, falsehood and hypocrisy of bourgeois democracy — democracy for the rich — and establish democracy for the poor, that is, make the blessings of democracy really accessible to the workers and poor peasants, whereas now (even in the most democratic — bourgeois — republic) the blessings of democracy are, in fact, inaccessible to the vast majority of working people.

Take, for example, freedom of assembly and freedom of the press. The Scheidemanns and Kautskys, the Austerlitzes and Renners assure the workers that the present elections to the Constituent Assembly in Germany and Austria are “democratic”. That is a lie. In practice the capitalists, the exploiters, the landowners and the profiteers own 9/10 of the best meeting halls, and 9/10 of the stocks of newsprint, printing presses, etc.. The urban workers and the farm hands and day laborers are, in practice, debarred from democracy by the “sacred right of property” (guarded by the Kautskys and Renners, and now, to our regret, by Friedrich Adler as well) and by the bourgeois state apparatus, that is, bourgeois officials, bourgeois judges, and so on. The present “freedom of assembly and the press” in the “democratic” (bourgeois democratic) German republic is false and hypocritical, because in fact it is freedom for the rich to buy and bribe the press, freedom for the rich to befuddle the people with venomous lies of the bourgeois press, freedom for the rich to keep as their “property” the landowners’ mansions, the best buildings, etc.. The dictatorship of the proletariat will take from the capitalists and hand over to the working people the landowners’ mansions, the best buildings, printing presses and the stocks of newsprint.

But this means replacing “universal”, “pure” democracy by the “dictatorship of one class”, scream the Scheidemanns and Kautskys, the Austerlitzes and Renners (together with their followers in other countries — the Gomperses, Hendersons, Renaudels, Vandervelde and Co.).

Wrong, we reply. This means replacing what in fact is the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie (a dictatorship hypocritically cloaked in the forms of the democratic bourgeois republic) by the dictatorship of the proletariat. This means replacing democracy for the rich by democracy for the poor. This means replacing freedom of assembly and the press for the minority, for the exploiters, by freedom of assembly and the press for the majority of the population, for the working people. This means a gigantic, world historic extension of democracy, its transformation from falsehood into truth, the liberation of humanity from the shackles of capital, which distorts and truncates any, even the most “democratic” and republican, bourgeois democracy. This means replacing the bourgeois state with the proletarian state, a replacement that is the sole way the state can eventually wither away altogether.

But why not reach this goal without the dictatorship of one class? Why not switch directly to “pure” democracy? So ask the hypocritical friends of the bourgeoisie for the naive petty-bourgeois and philistines gulled by them.

And we reply: Because in any capitalist society the powerful tell lies to either the bourgeoisie or the proletariat, while the small proprietors, inevitably, remain wavering, helpless, stupid dreamers of “pure”, i.e., nonclass or above class, democracy. Because from a society in which one class opposes another there is no way out other than through the dictatorship of the oppressed class. Because the proletariat alone is capable of defeating the bourgeoisie, of overthrowing them, being the sole class which capitalism has united and “schooled”, and which is capable of drawing to its side the wavering mass of the working population with a petty-bourgeois way of life, of drawing them to its side or at least “neutralizing” them. Because only mealy-mouthed petty-bourgeois and philistines can dream — deceiving thereby both themselves and the workers — of overthrowing capitalist oppression without a long and difficult process of suppressing the resistance of the exploiters. In Germany and Austria this resistance is not yet very pronounced because expropriation of the expropriators has not yet begun. But once expropriation begins the resistance will be fierce and desperate. In concealing this from themselves and from the workers, the Scheidemanns and Kautskys, the Austerlitzes and Renners betray the interests of the proletariat, switching at the most decisive moment from the class struggle and overthrow of the yoke of the bourgeoisie to getting the proletariat to come to terms with the bourgeoisie, achieving “social peace” or reconciliation of exploited and exploiters.

Revolutions are the locomotives of history, said Marx. Revolutions teach quickly. The urban workers and farm hands in Germany and Austria will quickly discern the betrayal of the cause of socialism by the the Scheidemanns and Kautskys, the Austerlitzes and Renners. The proletariat will cast aside these “social traitors” — Socialists in word and betrayers of socialism in practice — as it did in Russia with the same kind of petty-bourgeois and philistines — the Mensheviks and ” Socialist Revolutionaries “. The more complete the domination of the above minded “leaders”, the quicker the proletariat will see that only the replacement of the bourgeois state, be it the most democratic bourgeois republic, by a state of the type of the Paris Commune (about which so much was said by Marx, who has been distorted and betrayed by the Scheidemanns and Kautskys) or by a state of the Soviet type, can open the way to socialism. The dictatorship of the proletariat will deliver humanity from capitalist oppression and war.

Moscow, December 23, 1918

Source: Lenin Collected Works, Volume 28 (p. 368-72), First Published:January 3, 1919 in Pravda No. 2
and Lenin Internet Archive

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