THESES OF REPORT OF COMRADE LENIN, ON BOURGEOIS AND PROLETARIAN DEMOCRACIES.
[Petrograd Pravda, Mar. 8, 1919.)
1. The growth of the revolutionary movement of the proletariat in all countries has called forth convulsive efforts of the bourgeoisie and its agents in workmen's organizations, to find ideal-political arguments in defense of the rule of the exploiters. Among these arguments stands out particularly condemnation of dictatorship and defense of democracy. The falseness and hypocrisy of such an argument, which has been repeated in thousands of forms in the capitalist press and at the conference of the yellow International in February, 1919, Berne, are evident to all who have not wished to betray the fundamental principle of socialism.
2. First of all, this argument is used with certain interpretations of "democracy in general" and "dictatorship in general" without raising the point as to which class one has in mind. Such a statement of the question, leaving out of consideration the question of class as though it were a general national matter, is direct mockery of the fundamental doctrine of socialism, namely, the doctrine of class struggle, which the socialists who have gone over to the side of the bourgeoisie recognize when they talk, but forget when they act. For in no civilized, capitalist country does there exist "democracy in general," but there exists only bourgeois democracy, and one is speaking not of "dictatorship in general" but of dictatorship of the oppressed classes, that is, of the proletariat with respect to the oppressors and exploiters, that is, the bourgeoisie, in order to overcome the resistance which the exploiters make in their struggle to preserve their rule.
3. History teaches that no oppressed class has ever come into power and can not come into power, without passing through a period of dictatorship, that is, the conquest of power and the forcible suppression of the most desperate and mad resistance, which does not hesitate to resort to any crimes, such has always been shown by the exploiters. The bourgeoisie, whose rule is now defended by the socialists who speak against "dictatorship in general" and who espouse the cause of "democracy in general," has won power in the progressive countries at the price of a series of uprisings, civil wars, forcible suppression of kings, feudal lords, and slave owners, and of their attempts at restoration. The socialists of all countries, in their books and pamphlets, in the resolutions of their congresses, in their propaganda speeches, have explained to the people thousands and millions of times the class character of these bourgeois revolutions, and of this bourgeois dictatorship. Therefore the present defense of bourgeois-democracy in the form of speeches about "democracy in general," and the present wails and shouts against the dictatorship of the proletariat in the form of wails about "dictatorship in general," are a direct mockery of socialism, and represent in fact going over to the bourgeoisie and denying the right of the proletariat to its own proletarian revolution, and a defense of bourgeois reformism, precisely at the historic moment when bourgeois reformism is collapsing the world over, and when the war has created a revolutionary situation.
4. All socialists who explain the class character of bourgeois civilization, of bourgeois democracy, of bourgeois parliamentarianism, express the thought which Marx and Engels expressed with the most scientific exactness when they said that the most democratic bourgeois republic is nothing more than a machine for the suppression of the working class by the bourgeoisie, for the suppression of the mass of the toilers by a handful of capitalists. There is not a single revolutionist, not a single Marxist of all those who are now shouting against dictatorship and for democracy, who would not have sworn before the workmen that he recognizes this fundamental truth of socialism. And now, when the revolutionary proletariat begins to act and move for the destruction of this machinery of oppression, and to win the proletarian dictatorship, these traitors to socialism report the situation as though the bourgeoisie were giving the laborers pure democracy, as though the bourgeoisie were abandoning resistance and were ready to submit to the majority of the toilers, as though there were no state machinery for the suppression of labor by capital in a democratic republic.
5. The Paris Commune, which all who wish to be considered socialists celebrate in words, for they know that the working masses sympathize with the Paris Commune keenly and sincerely, showed with particular clearness the historically conditional character and the limited worth, of bourgeois parliamentarianism and bourgeois democracy - institutions in a high degree progressive as compared with the Middle Ages, but inevitably requiring radical changes in the epoch of proletarian revolution. It was Marx who best showed in his analysis the exploiting character of bourgeois democracy and of bourgeois parliamentarianism, under which the oppressed classes received the right to decide once every few years which representatives of the propertied classes are to "represent and suppress" the people in parliament. Precisely at the present moment when the Soviet movement, covering the whole world, continues the work of the Commune before the eyes of the whole world, the traitors to socialism forget concrete experiences and the concrete lessons of the Paris Commune, repeating the old bourgeois rubbish about "democracy in general." The Commune was not a parliamentary institution.
6. Further, the significance of the Commune lies in the fact that it attempted to break up and destroy completely the bourgeois state machinery, of officials, of judges, of military officials, of police, setting up instead self-administrating mass organizations of workmen, which did not recognize the division into legislative and executive authorities. All present-day bourgeois-democratic republics, including the German, which the traitors to socialism, scoffing at truth call proletarian, preserve this governmental apparatus. Therefore it is proven once more, and quite clearly, that the shouts in defense of "democracy in general" are in fact defense of the bourgeoisie and its exploiting privileges.
7. "Freedom of meeting" may be taken as an example of the demands for "pure democracy." Any conscious workman who has not broken with his own class will understand immediately that it would be stupid to permit freedom
of meetings to exploiters at this period, and under the present circumstances, when the exploiters are resisting their overthrow, and are fighting for their privileges. When the bourgeoisie was revolutionary, in England in 1649, and in France in 1793, it did not give “freedom of meetings” to monarchists and nobles who were calling in foreign troops and who were “meeting” to organize attempts at restoration. If the present bourgeoisie, which has been reactionary for a long time now, demands of the proletariat that the latter guarantee in advance freedom of meetings for exploiters no matter what resistance the capitalists may show to the measures of expropriation directed against them, the workmen will only laugh at the hypocrisy of the bourgeoisie.
On the other hand the workmen know very well that “freedom of meetings,” even in the most democratic bourgeois republic, is an empty phrase, for the rich have all the best public and private buildings at their disposal, and also sufficient leisure time for meetings and for the protection of these meetings by the bourgeois apparatus of authority. The proletarians of the city and of the village, and the poor peasants, that is, the overwhelming majority of the population, have none of these three things. So long as the situation is such, "equality," that is, “pure democracy” is sheer fraud. In order to secure genuine equality, in order to realize in fact democracy for the toilers, one must first take away from the exploiters all public and luxurious private dwellings, one must give leisure time to the toilers, one must protect the freedom of their meetings by armed workmen, and not by noble or capitalist officers with brow-beaten soldiers.
Only after such a change can one speak of freedom of meetings and of equality, without scoffing at workmen, toilers, and the poor. And no one can bring about this change except the advance guard of the toilers, that is, the proletariat, by overthrowing the exploiters, the bourgeoisie.
8. "Freedom of press" is also one of the main arguments of "pure democracy," but again the workmen know that the socialists of all countries have asserted millions of times that this freedom is a fraud so long as the best printing machinery and the largest supplies of paper have been seized by the capitalists, and so long as the power of capital over the press continues, which power in the whole world is clearly more harsh and more cynical in proportion to the development of democratism and the republican principle, as, for example, in America. In order to secure actual equality and actual democracy for the toilers, for workmen and peasants, one must first take from capitalists the possibility of hiring writers, of buying up publishing houses, of buying up newspapers, and to this end one must overthrow the yoke of capital, overthrow the exploiters, and put down all resistance on their part. The capitalists have always called "freedom" the freedom to make money for the rich, and the freedom to die of hunger for workmen. The capitalists call "freedom" the freedom of the rich, freedom to buy up the press, freedom to use wealth, to manufacture and support so-called public opinion. The defenders of "pure democracy" again in actual fact turn out to be the defenders of the most dirty and corrupt system of the rule of the rich over the means of education of the masses. They deceive the people by attractive, fine-sounding, beautiful but absolutely false phrases, trying to dissuade the masses from the concrete historic task of freeing the press from the capitalists who have gotten control of it. Actual freedom and equality will exist only in the order established by the Communists, in which it will be impossible to become rich at the expense of another, where it will be impossible either directly or indirectly to subject the press to the power of money, where there will be no obstacle to prevent any toiler (or any large group of such) from enjoying and actually realizing the equal right to the use of public printing presses and of the public fund of paper.
9. The history of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries showed us, even before the war, what sort of a thing this famous "pure democracy" really is when one has capitalism. The Marxists have always said that where democracy is most developed and "pure," and the class struggle becomes most apparent, sharp and pitiless, there the yoke of capital and the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie also stand out in a most "pure" form.
The Dreyfus affair in republican France, the reprisals of hired battalions, armed by capitalists, against strikers in the free and democratic Republic of America, these and thousands of similar facts show the truth, which the bourgeoisie tries frantically to conceal, namely, that in the most democratic republics terror and the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie rule in actual fact, showing themselves openly whenever the exploiters begin to feel that the power of capital is shaking.
10. The imperialistic war of 1914-1918 definitely revealed, even to the retrograde workmen, the true character of bourgeois democracy, even in the freest republics. For the enrichment of a German or an English group of millionaires or billionaires, tens of millions were killed, and in the freest republics the military dictatorship of the bourgeoisie was established. This military dictatorship continues even after the defeat of Germany in the countries of the Entente. The war has been the chief agency by which the eyes of the toilers have been opened, for it tore off the false flowers from bourgeois democracy, and showed to the whole people the enormous speculation and profiteering, in time of war and because of the war. The bourgeoisie continued this war in the name of freedom and equality, and in the name of freedom and equality war contractors have become rich to unheard-of proportions. Despite its efforts to do so the yellow Berne International will not conceal from us the exploiting character of bourgeois freedom, of bourgeois equality, of bourgeois democracy, for it has been completely exposed.
11. In the most developed capitalist country of the European continent, in Germany, the first months of complete republican freedom, secured by the overthrow of imperialist Germany, showed to the German workmen and to the whole world the actual class character of a bourgeois-democratic republic. The murder of Karl Liebnecht and Rosa Luxemburg are events of world importance, not only because the best people and the leaders of the truly democratic, communist International perished, but because for the leading European - and one can say without exaggeration for the leading world - State the essentially class character of its order was made clear. If people who have been arrested, that is, taken under protection by the State authority, can be killed by officers and capitalists with impunity under a government of patriots-socialists, then a democratic republic, in which such a thing was possible, is a dictatorship of the bourgeoisie. People who express their indignation over the murder of Karl Liebnecht and Rosa Luxemburg, but do not understand
this truth reveal, then, either their stupidity or their hypocrisy. "Freedom" in one of the freest and most progressive republics of the world, in the German Republic, is freedom to kill the arrested leaders of the proletariat with impunity. And it could not be otherwise, so long as capitalism maintains itself, for the development of democratism does not moderate but encourages class struggle, which, by reason of all the results and influences of the war and of its consequences, has been brought to the boiling point.
In the whole civilized world Bolsheviks are now being exiled, persecuted, imprisoned, as, for example, in one of the oldest bourgeois republics - Switzerland; pogroms against the Bolsheviks are taking place in America, etc. From the point of view of democracy in general or of pure democracy, it is really laughable to see how the leading civilized democratic countries, armed to the teeth, fear the presence of a few dozen people from backward, hungry, ruined Russia, which the bourgeois papers in tens of millions of copies call barbarian, criminal, etc. It is clear that an order of society which can produce such a great contradiction is in fact a dictatorship of the bourgeoisie.
12. In the presence of such a situation a dictatorship of the proletariat is not only absolutely legal, just as are the overthrow of exploiters and the suppression of their resistance, but it is also absolutely necessary for the whole mass of toilers as the only defense against the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, which brought about the war and is preparing new wars.
That which the socialists do not understand, which constitutes their theoretic nearsightedness, their submission to bourgeois prejudices and their political treason with respect to the proletariat, is the following: In a political society wherever there is any serious sharpening of class struggle which is included in its very structure, there can be no middle course between dictatorship of the bourgeoisie or dictatorship of the proletariat. Any fanciful dreaming about some sort of third line is a reactionary lamentation of the petty bourgeois. Evidence of this is the experience of long development of bourgeois democracy and of the workmen's movement in all leading countries and in particular the experience of the last five years. Also the science of political economy speaks of this, as does the entire content of Marxism, which explains the economic inevitableness, under any economic system based on trade, of the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, which can be changed only by a class that has developed, increased in numbers and become stronger internally by organization and also as a result of the development of capitalism, that is the class of the proletarians.
13. Another theoretic and political mistake of socialists consists in their failure to understand that the forms of democracy must necessarily change in the course of centuries, beginning from ancient times, as one ruling class is replaced by another. In the ancient republics of Greece, in the cities of the Middle Ages, in the late capitalist countries, democracy has different forms and is applied in different degrees. It would be the greatest absurdity to think that the most profound revolution in the history of humanity, where for the first time in the world, power has passed from a minority of exploiters to the majority of the exploited, would take place within the old framework of the old bourgeois, parliamentary democracy, and without the most radical ruptures and the creation of new forms of democracy, of new institutions, representing new methods of applying democracy, etc.
14. Dictatorship of the proletariat resembles dictatorship of other classes in that it was called forth by the need to suppress the forcible resistance of a class that was losing its political rulership. But that which definitely distinguishes a dictatorship of the proletariat from a dictatorship of other classes, from a dictatorship of the bourgeoisie in all the civilized capitalist countries, is that the dictatorship of the landlords and of the bourgeoisie was the forcible suppression of the resistance of the overwhelming majority of the population, namely, the toilers. On the other hand, the dictatorship of the proletariat is the forcible suppression of the resistance of the exploiters, that is, of an insignificant minority of the population - of landlords and capitalists.
It therefore follows that a dictatorship of the proletariat must necessarily carry with it not only changes in the form and institutions of democracy, speaking in general terms, but specifically such a change as would secure an extension such as has never been seen in the history of the world of the actual use of democratism by the toiling classes.
And in actual fact the form of dictatorship of the proletariat which has already been worked out in practice, that is, the Soviet authority in Russia, the Rate system in Germany, the shop stewards committees, and other similar Soviet institutions in other countries, all represent and realize for the toiling classes, that is, for the overwhelming majority of the population, this actual possibility to use democratic rights and freedoms, which possibility never existed, even approximately, in the very best and most democratic bourgeois republics.
The essence of the Soviet authority consists in this, that the permanent and sole basis of all State authority, of the entire apparatus of government, is the mass organization precisely of those classes which were oppressed by capitalism, that is, of the workmen and of the half-proletarians (peasants who did not exploit the labor of another and constantly had to sell at least a portion of their labor strength). Precisely those masses which even in the most democratic bourgeois republics had equal rights before the law but in fact were deprived of participation in the political life of the country, and by thousands of tricks and traps of the use of democratic rights and liberties, are now brought into constant and actual, and, in addition, decisive, participation in the democratic administration of the State.
15. Equality of citizenship, independent of sex, religion, race and nationality, which bourgeois democracy always and everywhere promised but never introduced, and could not introduce because of the rule of capitalism, has been realized immediately and completely by the Soviet authority or the dictatorship of the proletariat, because only the power of workmen who are not interested in the private ownership of the means of production, and in the struggle for the distribution and dividing up of these means, is in a position to give such equality.
16. The old, that is the bourgeois, democracy, and parliamentarianism were so organized that the masses of the toilers were for the most part prevented from penetrating the institutions of administration. The Soviet authority, that is the dictatorship of the proletariat, on the other hand is so organized as to bring the masses of toilers into close contact
with the institutions of administration. To this end the legislative and executive authorities have been brought together under the Soviet organization of the State, and territorial election districts have been replaced by economic units, such as factories and mills.
17. The army was a weapon of oppression, not only in monarchies; it remains such in all bourgeois republics, even in the most democratic. Only the Soviet authority, which is the governmental organization precisely of the classes oppressed by capitalism, is able to destroy the subjection of the army to bourgeois orders, and thus actually unify the proletariat and the army, actually bringing about the arming of the proletariat and the disarming of the bourgeoisie, without which socialism can not be triumphant.
18. The Soviet organization of the State has been so adapted as to give the leading rô1e to the proletariat, because the latter is the class that has been most concentrated and enlightened by capitalism. The experience of all revolutions and of all movements of the oppressed classes, and the experience of the world socialist movement, teach us that only the proletariat is able to unite and carry with it the scattered and retrograde classes of the toiling and exploited population.
19. Only a Soviet organization of the State is able actually to disrupt without delay, and destroy definitively, the old apparatus of government, of the bourgeoisie, the bureaucracy and law courts. This apparatus was preserved and had to be preserved under the capitalistic order of society even in the most democratic republics, because in fact it was the main protection against the introduction of democratism for workmen and toilers. The Paris Commune made the first world-historic step along this road; the Soviet authority, the second.
20. The destruction of State authority is the aim which all socialists have set for themselves, Marx included and at the head; without the realization of this aim true democratism, that is, equality and liberty, cannot be realized. This aim can be realized in actual fact only by a Soviet or proletarian democracy, for by bringing into constant and actual participation in the administration of the State the mass organizations of the toilers, it begins immediately to prepare for the complete decay of any State.
21. The complete bankruptcy of the socialists who gathered in Berne and their complete failure to understand the new, that is, the proletarian democracy, are seen especially in the following: On February 10, 1919, Branting opened in Berne an international conference of the yellow International. On February 11, 1919, in Berlin, in the newspaper of the supporters of this conference, Die Frôhe, was published an appeal of the party of "The Independents" to the proletariat. In this appeal the bourgeoise character of the government of Scheidemann was acknowledged, and this government was reproached for wishing to abolish the Soviets, which were called the "Träger und Schützer der Revolution", the standard bearers of the revolution; and it was proposed that the Soviets be legalized, given governmental functions and the right to suspend the decisions of the Constituent Assembly through a referendum based on universal suffrage. This proposal represents the complete bankruptcy of the theorists who have defined democracy without understanding its bourgeois character. This ludicrous attempt to unite the system of Soviets, that is, the dictatorship of the proletariat, with the Constituent Assembly, that is, the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, reveals definitively the deformed mentality of the yellow Socialists and Social-Democrats, their political reactionary tendencies similar to those of the petty bourgeoisie, and their cowardly concessions to the irresistible, growing strength of the new proletarian democracy.
22. In condemning Bolshevism, the majority of the yellow International of Berne, which did not have the courage formally to vote a resolution to this effect because of their fear of the workmen masses, acted from a class point of view, for this majority is in complete solidarity with the Russian Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries, and with the Scheidemanns in Germany. The Russian Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries, complaining that they are prosecuted by the Bolsheviks, try to conceal the fact that they are being prosecuted because of participation in the civil war on the side of the bourgeoisie against the proletariat. In the same manner the Scheidemanns and their parties have already shown in Germany that they also are participating in the civil war on the side of the bourgeoisie against the workmen. It is therefore quite natural that the majority of those who took part in the Berne yellow International came out in condemnation of the Bolsheviks. But this was not defense of “pure democracy,” but self-defense of people who know and feel that in the civil war they stand on the side of the bourgeoisie against the proletariat. Therefore, from the class point of view one must recognize the correctness of the decision of the majority of the yellow International. The proletariat, not fearing the truth, should look the truth straight in the face and draw the logical political conclusions.