Economics and Politics in the Era of the Dictatorship of the

Economics and Politics in the Era of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat


an article by V. I. Lenin containing scientific substantiation of the chief economic and political principles of the proletarian state in the transitional period between capitalism and socialism. Written on Oct. 30, 1919, the article was first published in Pravda (no. 250, Nov. 7, 1919). The article appears in Lenin’s Collected Works (V. I. Lenin, Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 39).

In the first part of the article, Lenin cites the Marxist tenet that an entire historical era lies between capitalism and communism, combining various features of these two social formations, and he describes the general and particular traits marking the development of various countries in the period of transition. Russia’s basic forms of social economy—capitalism, petty commodity production, and communism—and corresponding social classes—the bourgeoisie, the petite bourgeoisie (the peasantry in particular), and the proletariat—were the same as those of any other country taking the road to socialism. But the dictatorship of the proletariat in Russia differed in certain particulars, which reflected the country’s level of economic development and its petit bourgeois character. As Lenin pointed out, however, “the peculiarities can apply only to what is of lesser importance” (Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 39, p. 272).

Lenin emphasized that the peasant economy’s petty commodity production represented a very broad, sound, and deep-rooted basis for the revival of capitalism in its fierce struggle against communism—a struggle that took the form of private speculation and profiteering versus state distribution of products. Lenin’s theoretical propositions are illustrated by factual data. He formulates and explains the thesis that “socialism means the abolition of classes” (ibid., p. 276). In order to abolish classes it is necessary, first, to overthrow the landowners and capitalists. But this is only a part, and not even the most difficult part, of what needs to be done. It is necessary, second, to abolish the difference between workers and peasants. This task is incomparably more difficult and necessarily of long duration. It can be accomplished only by shifting from individual and isolated petty commodity production to large-scale social production. This transition will be accelerated by affording the peasant such assistance as will radically change all farming techniques. Hasty and incautious administrative and legislative measures can only delay and complicate the conversion of small peasant farms to a collective base.

At the same time that he advanced these most important principles, Lenin emphasized that the proletariat must separate and demarcate the working peasant from the peasant owner, the peasant worker from the peasant huckster, the peasant who labors from the peasant who profiteers. “In this demarcation lies the whole essence of socialism” (ibid., p. 277).

The last section of the article describes changes in the status and interrelations of classes in the era of the dictatorship of the proletariat. Having overthrown the bourgeoisie and having won political power, the proletariat is transformed from an oppressed class into the ruling class. It wields state power, exercises control over the socialized means of production, guides the wavering and intermediary elements and classes, and crushes the resistance of the exploiters. The landowners and capitalists are defeated but not yet destroyed. They retain some of the means of production, and they still have vast social connections and the support of international capital. Because they have been defeated, the energy of their resistance has increased a hundred- and a thousand-fold.

On the basis of these circumstances, Lenin drew the conclusion that the bitter class struggle between the overthrown exploiters and the workers was at the time inevitable. The peasantry, “in view of the incredibly severe breakup of all social relations” (ibid., p. 280), inevitably wavers and experiences uncertainty. The proletariat must strive to lead those who are vacillating and unstable and to influence and guide the peasantry. Lenin reveals the theoretical insolvency of the petit bourgeois views of R. MacDonald, J. Longuet, K. Kautsky, and F. Adler with respect to the transition to socialism “through democracy” in general; he demonstrates the basic difference between the bourgeois-democratic and socialist interpretations of equality, and he clarifies the Marxist position that equality becomes a prejudice if it is not understood as the abolition of classes.

The practice of socialist construction in the USSR and in the other socialist countries has confirmed the correctness of Lenin’s theoretical statements regarding the main patterns of formation of socialist society, as presented in this article, and the need to consider the national peculiarities of any given country.

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