Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky, The

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky, The


a work by V. I. Lenin, in which he develops the Marxist doctrine of socialist revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat and exposes the opportunistic views presented by K. Kautsky, one of the leaders of the Second International, in the pamphlet The Dictatorship of the Proletariat (Vienna, August 1918).

Written in October and November 1918, Lenin’s work was published separately as a pamphlet in Moscow in December (Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 37, pp. 235–338). In the Preface, Lenin pointed out that the question of proletarian revolution had become a practical issue in a number of states and that “an examination of Kautsky’s renegade sophistries and his complete renunciation of Marxism [was] therefore essential” (ibid., p. 237). For this reason, even before the publication of The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky, Lenin published an article under the same title in Pravda (Oct. 11, 1918), criticizing Kautsky’s pamphlet: “Kautsky has come out with a book on the dictatorship of the proletariat—in other words, on the proletarian revolution—that is a hundred times more disgraceful, outrageous, and renegade than Bernstein’s notorious Premises of Socialism” (ibid., p. 101). The article was sent abroad and was published in Switzerland. In 1919, Lenin’s book was published in Germany, Austria, Italy, Great Britain, and France. It was later published in other countries.

Lenin showed that Kautsky had distorted K. Marx’ doctrine of the dictatorship of the proletariat and slandered the experience of the socialist revolution in Russia. Kautsky declared that the ideas of the uprising and the proletarian dictatorship were the product of an era when the working-class movement was in a primitive condition. He claimed that the proletariat could free itself only when it had become the majority of the nation and had attained, under the conditions of bourgeois society, “sufficient maturity and civilization.” Thus, he endeavored to distract the workers from the problems of the proletarian revolution and strengthen their reformist illusions concerning the possibility of a spontaneous evolution of capitalism into socialism. Kautsky masked his opportunism with a verbal acknowledgment of the correctness of Marxism and a so-called defense of orthodox Marxism against its distortion by the Bolsheviks, whom he depicted as voluntarists. According to Kautsky, because the Bolsheviks were not versed in Marx’ economic theory, they had tried to carry out a socialist revolution despite Russia’s economic backwardness. All of these sophistries were demolished by Lenin.

Lenin exposed Kautsky’s distortions of the Marxist definition of the dictatorship of the proletariat, pointing out that Kautsky had denied the fundamental feature of the concept—the oppressed class’ use of revolutionary force, which is necessary to overcome the resistance of the exploiters. Emphasizing that the exploiter classes do not willingly yield their power or their wealth to the toiling people, Lenin pointed out: “The transition from capitalism to communism takes an entire historical epoch. Until this epoch is over, the exploiters inevitably cherish the hope of restoration, and this hope turns into attempts at restoration” (ibid., p. 264). Thus, as Lenin observed, revolutiopary force is an absolutely essential condition for carrying out a proletarian revolution. Although he underscored the role of force in the proletarian revolution, Lenin did not exclude the possibility of a peaceful seizure of power by the proletariat, without an armed uprising and civil war, in the event that the exploiter classes could not offer armed resistance to the victorious revolution. However, Lenin taught that this was precisely the reason why the proletariat and its revolutionary party had to master all forms of class struggle and apply them, depending on the situation.

Departing from a class analysis of the bourgeois state, Kautsky posed the question of “democracy in general” and “dictatorship in general,” demonstrating that democracy is “superior” to dictatorship and that therefore the proletarian dictatorship is unfit for the construction of socialism. Lenin revealed the fundamental opposition between bourgeois and proletarian democracy and proved that in a society divided into antagonistic classes there is no “pure democracy.” As long as there are different classes, one can speak only of class democracy, or democracy in the interests of a particular class. Lenin exposed Kautsky’s distortion of the essence of Soviet power as the state form of the dictatorship of the proletariat. He showed that in Russia, as a result of the victory of the October Revolution of 1917 and the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat, a higher type of democracy emerged for the first time-proletarian democracy, one form of which was Soviet power. Lenin pointed out that proletarian democracy “has brought a development and expansion of democracy unprecedented in the world, for the vast majority of the population, for the exploited and working people” (ibid., p. 256). In the bourgeois democratic state the capitalists do their utmost to exclude the masses from participation in government. By contrast, Soviet power was the first state in the world to engage the toiling masses in the direct, active management of the state.

Lenin demonstrated the correctness of Bolshevik tactics during the period of the imperialist war and the preparation and execution of the October Revolution: “These tactics were the only internationalist tactics, because they did the utmost possible in one country for the development, support, and awakening of revolution in all countries” (ibid., p. 304). Lenin emphasized that Bolshevism was showing nations the true path to salvation from the horrors of war and imperialism. For this reason, with every passing day the toiling masses of all countries were becoming convinced that “Bolshevism can serve as a model of tactics for all” (ibid., p. 305). Bolshevism established the ideological and tactical foundations of the genuinely proletarian and communist Third International, which took into account peacetime achievements and the experience of the incipient era of revolution.

Lenin’s book is a brilliant example of the defense of the revolutionary doctrine of Marx and Engels and a model of the creative development of Marxism under new historical conditions.

By January 1973, The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky had been published 116 times in the USSR (a total of 3,360,000 copies in 38 languages). By 1970, it had been published 106 times abroad.


Lenin, V. I. Proletarskaia revoliutsiia i renegat Kautskii. Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 37, pp. 101–10, 235–338.
Istoriia KPSS, vol. 3, book 2. Moscow, 1968.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.