E. Varga


The Dictatorship of the Proletariat and
the Social-Democratic Socialization-Fraud

(18 October 1921)

From International Press Correspondence, Vol. I No. 8, 15 November 1921, pp. 62–63.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

The new economic system of Soviet Russia confines the State economic control to the most important branches of industry, in which the larger establishments dominate: mining, railways, manufacture on a large scale, the monopoly of foreign-trade and of the money and banking institutions. In other words, it limits it essentially to those “ripe” branches of industry which are named by social-democrats of all shades in their programs of state control or socialisation. And we hear the objection: “Why was it necessary to establish the dictatorship of the proletariat, why was it necessary to carry on a civil war for years, when the state economic control in Russia amounts to no more than we social democrats aim to accomplish through socialization? Wouldn’t it have been much wiser to have limited yourselves to the possible from the very beginning, than to have take to the roundabout way through excessive extensions of the State control?”

This train of thought suffers from the error which is typical of the social-democratic way of thinking: it interchanges the economic “moderate” with the political and social “possible”. We showed in our first article that the Russian Communists had no intention of socializing all industries. They were driven to it by the organized sabotage of the bourgeoisie. On this very ground any attempt at partial socialization would be wrecked. The experience which the social democrats of Germany, Austria, Bohemia and Hungary had with their participation in the government shows clearly how impossible a peaceful socialization, a socialization with the consent of the capitalists was ... As long as the bourgeoisie has part of the governing power, the state apparatus and an organized force in its hands, it also has the power to prevent all socialization, no matter how ripe for socialization a particular branch of production may be. The political condition for socialization is the dictatorship of the proletariat, which means: the transfer of the complete state power into the hands of the proletariat and the political disfranchisement of the capitalist class. But even when the political power is in the hands of the proletariat, every attempt at partial socialization is frustrated just as effectively by the opposition of the capitalists as by the opposition of the working class itself.

This fact is shown us by the Russian and Hungarian examples. Those capitalists who are not to be deprived of their industries force the proletarian government to do so by sabotaging production. And they sabotage production partly in the interest of their class, in order to put as many difficulties in the way of the despised workers’ government as possible, and partly for ulterior motives. In the first stages of proletarian dictatorship, profitable production for the capitalist class is impossible because of the general loosening of working discipline. In the capitalist state, working discipline is a near kin of class discipline. Those workers who politically are rid of the capitalists, or who politically are carrying on the fiercest struggle with the capitalists as a class, will not slave away industriously and in a disciplined manner in the factories of the same capitalists. No matter if the proletarian Government is determined to confine its expropriation policy to those branches of industry which are ripe, nevertheless the refusal of the capitalists of other branches of industry to produce necessitates a constantly extending and far-reaching expropriation.

The limitation only to “ripe” branches of industry also fails because of the opposition of the workers. In Hungary for instance, we drew the expropriation line at those factories which employed up to 20 workers. But the workers in those factories which employed from 10 to 19 men could not see at all why they should be further exploited by capitalists. They got rid of the capitalists on their own account against the will of the Hungarian Soviet government, and it was of course out of the question for the government to re-establish capitalism in the industries by force after it had been done away with by the workers. A revolution is far from a military parade, where everything can be calculated and defined beforehand. Every dictatorship will for a time be compelled to extend the boundaries of the State economic control further and further.

The question will be put, “what change was it that took place in Russia during the last four years, which makes the present reduction possible?” Two essential changes took place: The bourgeoisie which sabotaged production at the beginning of the dictatorship, in the hope of being able to overthrow the Soviet government, is now – with few exceptions – convinced that the overthrow of the dictatorship is not to be thought of. Their resources which enabled them to live until now are exhausted. They find themselves compelled by necessity to make an attempt to organize enterprises even under the regime of the Soviets, and to be satisfied with existing conditions. On the other hand, the experience which the Russian proletariat had on the economic field, in the past four years has taught the workers that they are not in a position just at present to conquer and organize the whole economic field. They must see that they must limit themselves in the organization of the industries, that they must buy out the organizing ability of the bourgeoisie, and buy it dearly, paying as price the new toleration of capitalist exploitation. The recognition of the above is very painful to many good Communist workers in Russia. Some of them rebel against it. But the thorough political schooling which the Russian proletariat has gone through in the four years of the revolution is sufficient to show the overwhelming majority how indispensable this step was. In possession of the political power, the Russian proletariat must go to school to learn from the bourgeoisie the science and application of economic organization.

From this it follows: that in every dictatorship the necessity will come up for a complete socialization, that a peaceful agreement with the bourgeoisie on grounds of State socialism, touching only the “ripe” branches of industry, is a political Utopia; but that the surrender of part of the ground won is not everywhere necessary. If we take Germany for instance, where the relative number of industrial workers is incomparably greater than that of Russia, where every industrial worker is able to read, write and count, where the ability to organize is altogether not to be compared with that in Russia, and where in case of a dictatorship a way of joining Russia would quickly be found, so that the proletariat would not be compelled, as the Russian proletariat was, to fight the capitalists on all frontiers. In such a country for instance, there would be no necessity for a step backward, as is the case in Russia. It must be remembered that the fact that Russia, the first proletarian state, existed four years in complete isolation within a capitalist world, made it necessary to use all the organizing talent, in which Russia was not at all rich, in the army and the state-machine. For the economic organization there remains only slight organising ability. The survival of the dictatorship of the proletariat, even though forced to make a step backward, is the deciding factor. As soon as the isolation of Russia will end, through the creation of new proletarian states, the organizing powers which today are bound up unproductively in the army and the states will be freed, and the state economic control can proceed forward. The proletarians of Europe must see that the slow development of the Revolution in Europe is one of the main reasons why the Communist Party of Russia was compelled to make a step backwards. If reproach had any sense to it, then it would be the slow European proletariat and not the Russian Communists who deserve to be blamed. Under no circumstances however, are the unhistorical and false arguments of the social democrats to be used; under no circumstances is it to be believed that the dictatorship of the proletariat can be avoided, or that an economic organization can be begun with the acquiescence of the bourgeoisie which is in possession of the political power, after we see where Russia is after four years’ struggle. Only an absolute ignorance of the meaning of the class struggle, or a betrayal of the cause can lead to such a statement.

Petrograd, Oct. 18th, 1921.

Last updated on 5 September 2019