Published by the Comintern on occasion of the 140th birthday of

W. I. LENIN




On the Paris Commune

selected collection of writings and excerpts :






Plan of the Lecture on the Commune (Volume 8, p. 206 208)

For the first time published on the internet by the Comintern - free to apply for the world revolution



Preface of the Russian Translation of Karl Marx's Letter to Dr. Kugelmann ( Volume 12, page 104 - 112)

For the first time published on the internet by the Comintern - free to apply for the world revolution



Lessons of the Commune ( Volume 13, pages 475 – 478)


The State and Revolution (Lenin, Volume 25, pp. 418 - 436)


The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky (Lenin, Volume 28, pp 229 -267)


First Congress of the Communist International (Lenin, Volume 28, pp 459-460)










Plan of the Lecture on the Commune

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[An outline of Lenin`s lecture on the Paris Commune delivered by him in Geneva on March 5 (18), 1905, for the Russian colony of political emigrants]


V. I. Lenin, Works, Volume 8, English Edition, page 206 – 208




  1. Historical outline of the Commune.

France under Napoleon III. Foundation of imperialism: the bourgeoisie no longer, the proletariat not yet …

[ In his introduction to Marx' The Civil War in France, Engels analysed the situation in France after the June insurrection of 1848, saying:If the proletariat was not yet able to rule France, the bourgeoisie could no longer do so“ (Marx and Engels, Selected Works, Moscow, 1958, Vol. 1, p. 475) ]

Adventurism of Napoleon III. Need for pomp, wars.


      1. Growth of proletariat after June 1848, „Internationale Arbeiterassoziation“, 1864. Its persecution by Napoleon III.

Protest of the French workers against war (July 12, Paris – Section of the International, page 16) and of the German workers (Brunswick workers' meeting, July 16, Chemnitz, Berlin – Section of the International, page 18)

[ Here and further below Lenin refers to the German edition of Karl Marx's pamphlet The Civil War in France, which appeared in Berlin in 1891 ]


      1. Sedan: September 2, 1870, and proclamation of republic on September 4, 1870. Artful liberals seize power.

Liberal lawyers and double-faced monarchists: Thiers.


      1. Government of national defence = government of national betrayal. Trochu: „plan“ for defending Paris. Comedy of defence. Heroism of the Paris workers. Capitulation on January 28, 1871.

      2. Bismarck imposes conditions for convocation of the National Assembly in eight days (S. 34) to decide question of war and peace. Thiers, intrigues with the monarchists. Chamber of Country Gentry (ruraux). National Assembly at Bordeaux: 630 members = 30 Bonapartists + 200 republicans (100 moderates and 100 radicals) + 400 monarchists (200 Orleanists + 200 Legitimists) Thiers talk with Falloux.


      1. Paris provoked: appointment of monarchist ambassadors: „30 sou“ pay cut for soldiers of the National Guard; in Paris Prefect of the Police Valentin, Commander of the National Guard d' Aurelle de Paladines, and others (Trepov and Vasilchikov);Here and further below Lenin refers to the book Histoire du mouvement

[ Lenin draws a comparison between the executioners of the Paris Commune of 1871 and the executioners of the first Russian revolution of 1905. Trepov, D. F. - Govonor-General of St. Petersburg; responsible for the suppression of the first Russian Revolution. Vasilchikov, S. I., Prince – tsarist general; commanded the tsarist troops in St. Petersburg which shot down the peaceful demonstration of workers on January 9 (22), 1905 ]

National Assembly moved to Versailles; suppression of republican newspapers and so on. Making the poor pay for the war. (S. 35) Armed Paris workers and – a monarchist assembly. Conflict inevitable.


      1. Marx' warning (Contra Blanqui, who founded Patrie en danger ( The Fatherland in Danger. - Ed.) in 1870 (. B.); second address of General Council of the International, September 9, 1870: They must not allow themselves to be swayed by the national memories of 1792“; to proceed with the organisation of their own class“; not to set itself the aim of overthrowing the government ( a desperate folly“): S. 25. Eugène Dupont, Secretary of the International (General Council) for France, wrote the same on September 7, 1870 (Weill, 134).

[ Here and further below Lenin refers to the book Histoire du mouvement social en France 1852-1902 by G. Weill, Paris, 1896, p. 207 ]


      1. Last act of provocation. Seizure of the guns from the National Guard, March 18, 1871, Thiers' fraudulent pretexts. Attempt fails. Central Committee of National Guard proclaims the Commune. Civil war begun between Paris Commune and Versailles Government.


      1. Trends in the Commune: (a) Blanquists. In November 1880 Blanqui in Ni Dieu ni maître [ Neither God nor Master. - Ed. ] condemns the theory of the class struggle and the separation of the interests of the proletariat and those of the nation.. (Weill, 229) (drwas no line between the workers and the revolutionary bourgeoisie). (b) Proudhonists (Mutualists) „organisation of barter and credit“. Revolutionary instinct of the working class asserts itself desoite fallacious theories.


      1. Political measures of the Commune:

      1. Abolition of the standing army.

      2. Abolition of the bureaucracy (a) Electivity of all officials; (b) Salary not > 6,000fr.

      3. Separation of Church from State

      4. Introduction of free tuition

( 3 and 4 = Minimum Programme )


Commune and peasants. In three months it would all be different ! (S. 49-50) [Baring of „secrets“: tricks of Trochu, „goings on“ in the monasteries (S. 54). Very little has yet been done !

Commune and International. Franckel, the Poles (banner of world republic).


      1. Economic measures of the Commune

      1. Ban on nicht-work for bakers.

      2. Ban of fines.

      3. Registration of abandoned factories, their tranfer to workers' associations with compensation on basis of decision by arbitration committees (S. 54).

N. B. Did not take over the bank. Eight-hour day did not go through. Weill, 142.

      1. Halt to foreclosures of mortgages. Deferment of payments (of rent).


      1. Crash. Deficiencies of organisation. Defensive attitude. Thiers-Bismarck deal { role of Bismarck = hired assassin}. Bloody week, May 21-28, 1871. Its horrors, exile, etc. Slanders (S. 65-66). Women and children ….

P. 487: 20 000 killed in streets, 3 000 died in prisons, etc. Military tribunals: until January 1, 1875 – 13 700 persons sentenced (80 women, 60 children), exile, prison.


[ The number of Communard victims is quoted from Proper Olivier Lissagaray's Histoire de la Commune de 1871, Paris, 1896. p. 208 ]


      1. Lessons: Bourgeoisie will stop at nothing. Today liberals, radicals, republicans, tomorrow betrayal, shootings.

Independent organisation of the proletariat – class struggle – civil war.

In the present movement we all stand on the shoulders of the Commune




Written in February-March 1905 - First published in 1931 in Lenin Miscellany XVI – published according to the manuscript.







Preface of the Russian Translation of Karl Marx's Letter to Dr. Kugelmann ( Volume 12, page 104 - 112)

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Our purpose in issuing as a separate pamphlet the full collection of Marx' letters to Kugelmann published in the German Social-democratic weekly, Neue Zeit, is to acquaint the Russian public more closely with Marx and Marxism. As we to be expected, a good deal of space in Marx' correspondence is devoted to personal matters. This is exceedingly valuable material for the biographer. But for the general public, and for the Russian working class in aprticular, those passages in the letters which contain theoretical and political material are infinitely more important. In the revolutionary period we are now passing through, it is particularly instructive for us to make a careful study of this material, which reveals Marx as a man who responded directly to all questions of the labour movement and world politics. The editors of Neue Zeit are quite right in saying thatwe are elevated by an acquaintance with the personality of men whose thoughts and wills took shape in the period of great upheavals“. Such an acquaintance is doubly necessary to the Russian socialist in 1907, for it provides a wealth of very valuable material indicating the direct tasks confronting socialists in every revolution through which a country passes. Russia is experiencing a „great upheaval“ at this very moment. In the present Russian revolution the Social-Democrat should more and more frequently pattern his policy after that of Marx in the comparatively stormy sicties.

We shall, therefore, permit ourselves to make only brief mention of those passages in Marx's correspondence that are of particular importance from the theoretical standpoint, and shall deal in greater detail with his revolutionary policy as a representative of the proletariat.

Of outstanding interest as a contribution to a fuller and more profound understanding of Marxism is the letter of July 11, 1868 (p. 42, et seq.);[ Marx and Engels, Selected Correspondence, Moscow, 1955, pp 250-53].

In the form of a polemic against the vulgar economists, Marx in this letter very clearly expounds his conception of what is called thelabour“ theory and value. Those very objections to Marx's theory and value which naturally arise in the minds of the least trained readers of Capital and for this reason are most eagerly seized upon by the common or garden representatives of „professorial“ bourgeois „science“, are here analysed by Marx briefly, simply, and with remarkable lucidity.

Marx here shows the road he took and the road to be taken towards elucidation of the law of value. He teaches us his method, using the most common objections as illustrations. He makes clear the connection between such a purely (it would seem) theoretical and abstract question as the theory of value and the interest of the ruling classes“, which must beto perpetuate confusion“. It is only to be hoped that everyone who begins to study Marx and read Capital will read and re-read this letter when studying the first and most difficult chapters of that book.

Other passages in the letters that are very interesting from the theoretical standpoint are those in which Marx passes judgement on various writers. When you read these opinions on Marx . Vividly written, full of passion and revealing a profound interest, in all the great ideological trends and in an analysis of them – you realise that you are listening to the words of a great thinker. Apart from the remarks on Dietzgen, made in passing, the comments on the Proudhonists (p. 17); [Marx and Engels, Selected Correspondence, Moscow, 1955, pp. 222-23] deserve particular attention from the reader. The „brilliant“ young bourgeois intellectuals who dash „into the thick of the proletariat“ at times of social upheaval, and are incapable od acquiring the standpoint of the working class or of carrying on persistent and serious work among the „rank and file“ of the proletarian organisations, are depicted with remarkable vividness in a few strokes of the pen.

Take the comment on Dühring (p. 35); [Marx and Engels, Selected Correspondence, Moscow, 1955, pp. 240 ]; which, as it were, anticipates the contents of the famous Anti-Dühring written by Engels (in conjunction with Marx) nine years later. There is a Russian translation of this book by Zederbaum which, unfortunately, is not only guilty of omissions but is simply a poor translation, with mistakes. Here, too, we have the comment on Thünen, which likewise touches on Ricardo's theory of rent. Marx had already, in 1968, emphatically rejectedRicardo's errors“, which he finally refuted in Volume III of Capital , published in 1894, but which to this very day are repeated by the revisionists – from our ultra-bourgeois and even „Black-Hundred“ Mr. Bulgakov to the „almost orthodox“ Maslov.

Onteresting, too, is the comment on Büchner, with an appraisal of vulgar materialism and of the „superficial nonsense“ copied from Lange (the usual source of „professorial“ bourgeois philosophy !) (page 48); [ Karl Marx, Letters to Dr. Kugelmann, Moscow, 1934, p. 80 ];

Let us pass to Marx's revolutionary policy. There is among Social-Democrats in Russia a surprisingly widespread philistine conception of Marxism, according to which a revolutionary period, with its specific forms of struggle and its special proletarian tasks, is almost an anomaly, while a „constitution“ and an „extreme opposition“ are the rule. In no other country in the world at this moment is there such a profound revolutionary crisis as in Russia -and in no other country are there „Marxists“ (belittlers and vulgarisers of Marxism) who take up such a sceptical and philistine attitude towards the revolution. From the fact that the revolution is bourgeois in content they draw the shallow conclusions that the bourgeoisie is the driving force of the revolution, that the tasks of the proletariat in this revolution are of an ancilary, not independent, character and that proletarian leadership of the revolution is impossible !

How excellently Marx, in his letters to Kugelmann, exposes this shallow interpretation of Marxism ! Hre is a letter dated April 6, 1866. At that time Marx had finished his principal work. He had given his final judgement on the German Revolution of 1848 fourteen years before this letter was written. He had himself, in 1850, renounced his socialist illusions that a socialist revolution was impending in 1848. And in 1866, when only just beginning to observe the growth of new political crisies, he writes:

Will our philistines [ he is referring to the German bourgeois liberals ] at last realise that without a revolution which removes the Habsburg and Hohenzollerns … there must finally come another Thirty Years' War ...“ (pp. 13-14);[ Karl Marx, Letters to Dr. Kugelmann, Moscow, 1934, p. 35 ];

There is not a shadow of illusion here that the impending revolution (it took place from above, not from below as Marx had expected) would remove the bourgeoisie and capitalism, but a most clear and precise statement that it would remove only the Prussioan and Austrian monarchies. And what faith in this bourgeois revolution ! What revolutionary passion of a proletarian fighter who realises the vast significance the bourgeois revolution has for the progress of the socialist movement !

Noting „a very interesting“ social movement three years later, on the eve of the downfall of the Napoleonic Empire in France, Marx says in a positive outburst of enthusiasm that the Parisians are making a regular study of their recent revolutionary past, in order to prepare themselves for the business of the impending new revolution“. And describing the struggle of classes revealed in this study of the past, Marx concludes (p. 56): And so the whole historical witches' cauldron is bubbling. When will our country [Germany] be so far.“ [Marx and Engels, Selected Correspondence, Moscow, 1955, pp. 263-64 ];

Such is the lesson to be learned from Marx by the Russian Marxist intellectuals, who are debilitated by scepticism, dulled by pedantry, have a penchant for penitent speeches, rapidly tire of the revolution, and yearn, as for a holiday, for the interment of the revolution and its replacement by constitutional prose. From the theoretician and leader of the proletarians they should learn faith in the revolution, the ability to call on the working class to fight for its immediate revolutionary aims to the last, and a firmness of spirit which admits of no faint-hearted whimpering following temporary setbacks of the revolution.

The pedants of Marxism think that this is all ethical twaddle, romanticism, and lack of a sense of reality ! No, gentlemen, this is the combination of the revolutionary theory and revolutionary policy, without which Marxism becomes Brentanoism,

[ Brentanoism - „ a bourgeois liberal teaching recognising the non-revolutionary 'class' struggle of the proletariat“ (see present edition, Vol. 28, „The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky!); it preaches the possibility of solving the workers' problems within the framework of capitalism through factory legislation and the organisation of the workers in trade unuins. It took ist name from the German bourgeois economist, Lujo Brentano (1844-1931) ]

Struvism

[ Struvism or „legal Marxism“ - a liberal bourgeois distortion of Marxism that emerged as an independent socio-political trend in the nineties of the nineteeth century among Russian liberal bourgeois intellectuals. By that time Marxism had become fairly widespread in Russia and bourgeois intellectuals began preaching their own views under cover of Marxism in legal newspapers and magazines; for this reason they were called „legal Marxists“. The legal Marxists criticised the Narodniks for their defence of petty production and tried to use Marxism in this struggle, but the kind of Marxism they wanted was one purged of all its revolutionary content. Attemting to subordinate the workin class movement to the interests of the bourgeoisie, they discarded Marxism' s most important feature – the theory of the proletarian revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat. P. Struve, leader of the legal Marxists, lauded capitalism and, instead of a revolutionary struggle against the capitalist system, called for „a recognition of our backwardness“ and proposed „learning from capitalism“. The legal Marxists revised almost all the basic postulates of Marxism and adopted the viewpoint of bourgeois objectivism, the viewpoint of Kantianism, and subjective idealism. Lenin recognised the liberal bourgeois nature of legal Marxism earlier than anybody else did. In his article „On the So-Called Market Question“ Lenin, as far back as 1893, criticised the views of the legal Marxists, then a new trend, at the time he exposed the views of the liberal Narodniks. The legal Marxists were the first hidden enemies the Russian Marxists came up against. They called themselves followers of Marx but actually deprived Marxism of its revolutionary content. In their struggle against the Narodniks, however, the Russian revolutionary Marxists entered into temporary agreements with the legal Marxists und published their own articles in journals edited by the legal Marxists. At the same time, in his article „The Economic Content of Narodism and the Criticism of It in Mr. Struve's Book“, Lenin severely criticised legal Marxism, calling it the reflection on Marxism in bourgeois literature, and exposed the „legal Marxists“ as the ideologists of the liberal bourgeoisie. Lenin's characterisation of the „legal Marxists“ was later confirmed in fully – they became prominent Cadets and. Later, fanatical whiteguards. Lenin's determined struggle against the „legal Marxists“ in Russia was also a struggle against international revisionism, and was an example of ideological irreconcilability with distortions of the Marxist theory.

and Sombartism

[ Sombartism- liberal bourgeois trend named after Werner Sombart (1863-1941), a vulgar bourgeois economist, one of the ideologists of liberalism in Germany. Sombart, Lenin wrote, hassubstituted Brentanoism for Marxism by employing Marxian terminology, by quoting some of Marx's statements and by assuming a Marxist disguise“ ( see present edition, Vol. 10, p. 260) ]

The Marxian doctrine has fused the theory and practice of the class struggle into one inseparable whole. And he is no Marxist who takes a theory that soberly states the objective situation and distorts it into a justification of the existing order and even goews to the length of trying to adapt himself as quickly as possible to every temporary decline in the revolution, to duscard 'revolutionary illusions' as quickly as possible, and to turn to 'realistic' tinkering.

In times that were most peaceful seemingly 'idyllic', as Marx expressed it, and 'wretchedly stagnant' (as Neue Zeit put it), Marx was able to sense the approach of revolution and to rouse the proletariat to a consciousness of its advanced revolutionary tasks. Our Russian intellectuals, who vulgarise Marx in a philistine manner, in the most revolutionary times teach the proletariat a policy of passivity, of submissively 'drifting with the current', of timidly supporting the most unstable elements of the fashionable liberal party !


Marx' assessment of the Commune crowns the letters to Kugelmann. And this assessment is particularly valuable when compared with the methods of the Russian Right-wing-Social-Democratics. Plekhanov, who after December 1905 faint-heartedly exclaimed: They should not have taken up arms“, had the modesty to compare himself to Marx. Marx, says he, also put the brakes on the revolution in 1870.

Yes, Marx also put the brakes on the revolution. But see what a gulf lies between Plekhanov and Marx, in Plekhanov's own comparison !

In November 1905, a month before the first revolutionary wave in Russia had reached its climax, Plekhanov, far from emphatically warning the proletariat, spoke directly of the necessity to learn to use arms and to arm. Yet, when the struggle flared up a month öater, Plekhanov, without making the slightest attempt to analyse its significance, its role in the general course of events and its connection with previous forms of struggle, hastened to play the part of a penitent intellectual and exclaimed: They should not have taken up arms.“

In September 1870, six month before the Commune, Marx gave a direct warning to the French workers: insurrection would be an act of desparate folly, he said in the well-known Address of the International.

[ Marx and Engels, Selected Works, Vol. I, Moscow, 1958, pp. 491-98 ]

He exposed in advance the nationalistic illusions of the possibility of a movement in the spirit of 1792. He was able to say, not after the event, but many months before: „Don't take up arms.“

And how did he behave when this hopeless cause, as he himself had called it in September, began to take practical shape in Marxh 1871 ? Did he use it (as Plekhanov did the December event ) to „take a dig“ at his enemies, the Proudhonists and Blanquists who were leading the Commune ? Did he begin to scold like a schoolmistress, and say: I told you so, I warned you; this is what comes of your romanticism, your revolutionary ravings“? Did he preach to the Communards, as Plekhanov did to the December fighters, the sermon of the smug philistine: You should not have taken up arms“ ?

No. On April 12, 1871, Marx writes an enthusiastic letter to Kugelmann – a letter which we would like to see hung in the home of every Russian Social-Democrat and of every literate Russian worker.

In September 1870 Marx had called the insurrection an act of desparate folly; but in April 1871, when he saw the mass movement of the people, he watched it with the keen attention of a participant in great events marking a step forward in the historic revolutionary movement.

This is an attempt, he says, to smash the bureaucratic military machine, and not simply to transfer it to different hands. And he has words of the highest praise for the 'heroic' Paris workers led by the Proudhonists and Blanquists. „What elasticity,“ he writes, „what historical initiative, what a capacity for sacrifice in these Parisians ! … (p. 88). History has no like example of a like greatness.“

The historical initiative of the masses was what Marx prized above everything else. Ah, if only our Russian Social-Democrats qould learn from Marx how to appreciate the historical initiative of the Russian workers and peasants in October and December 1905 !

Compare the homage paid to the historical initiative of the masses ba a profounf thinker, who forsaw failure sic months ahead – and the lifeless, soulless, pedantic: They should not have taken up arms“ ! Are these not as far apart as heaven and earth ?

And like a participant in the mass struggle, to which he reacted with all his characteristic ardour and passion, Marx, then living in exile in London, set to work to criticise the immediate steps of the „reckless brave“ Parisioans who were „ready to storm heaven“.

Ah, how our present „realist“ wiseacres among the Marxists, who in 1906-1907 are deriding revolutionary romanticism in Russia, would have sneered at Marx at the time ! How people would have scoffed at a materialist, an economist, an enemy of utopias, who pays homage to an „attempt“ to storm heaven ! What tears, condescending smiles or comiseration these „men in mufflers

[ The Man in a Muffler – the central character in a story of that name by Anto Chekhov – a limited, philistine type who fears all initiative and everything new ]

would have bestowed upon him for his rebel tendencies, utopianism, etc., etc., and for his appreciation of a heaven-storming movement !

But Marx was not inspired with the wisdom of the small fry who are afraid to discuss the technique of the higher forms of revolutionary struggle. It is precisely the technical problems of the insurrection that he discussed. Defence or attack ? - he asked, as if the military operations were taking place just outside London. And he decided that it must certainly be attack: „They should have marched at once on Versailles …“

This was written in April 1871, a few weeks before the great and bloody May …

They should have marched at once on Versailles“ - the insurgents should, those who had begun the „act of desparate folly“ (September 1870) of storming heaven.

They should not have taken up arms“ in December 1905 in order to oppose by force the first attempts to take away the liberties that had been won …

Yes, Plekhanov had good reason to compare himself to Marx !

Second mistake,“ Marx said, continuing his technical criticism: „The Central Committee“ ( the military command – not this – the reference is to the Central Committee of the National Guard) „surrendered its power too soon ..“

Marx knew how to warn the leaders against a premature rising. But his attitude towards the heaven-storming proletariat was that of a practical advisor, of a participant in the struggle of the masses, who were raising the whole movement to a higher level in spite of the false theories and mistakes of Blanqui and Proudhon.

However that may be“, he wrote, „the present rising in Paris – even if it be crushed by the wolves, swine, and vile curs of the old society – is the most glorious deed of our Party since the June insurrection ...“

[Marx and Engels, Selected Correspondence, Moscow, 1958, pp. 318-19 ];

And, without concealing from the proletariat a single mistake of the Commune, Marx dedicated to his heroic deed a work which to this very day serves as the best guide in the fight for „heaven“ and as a frightful bugbear to the liberal and radical „swine“.

Plekhanov dedicated to the December events a „work“ which has become practically the bible of the Cadets.

Yes, Plekhanov had good reason to compare himself to Marx.

Kugelmann apparently replied to Marx expressing certain doubts, referring to the hopelessness of the struggle and to realism as opposed to romanticism – at any rate, he compared the Commune, an insurrection, to the peaceful demonstration in Paris on June 13, 1849.

Marx immediately (April 17, 1871) severely lectured Kugelmann.

World history“, he wrote, „would indeed be very easy to make, if the struggle were taken up only on condition of infallibly favourable chances.“

In September 1870, Marx called the insurrection an act of desparate folly. But, when the masses rose, Marx wanted to march with them, to learn with them in the process of the struggle, and not to give them bureaucratic admonitions. He realised that the attempt in advance to calculate the chances with complete accuracy would be quackery or hopeless pedantry. What he valued above everything else was that the working class heroically and self-sacrificingly took the initiative in making world history. Marx regarded world history from the standpoint of those who make it without being in a position to calculate the chances infallibly beforehand, and not from the standpoint of an intellectual philistine who moralises:It was easy to foresee … they should not have taken up ..“.

Marx was also able to appreciate that there are moments in history when a desparate struggle of the masses, even for a hopeless cause, is essential for the further schooling of these masses and their training for the next struggle.

Such a statement of the question is quite incomprehensible and even alien in principle to our present-day quasi- Marxists, who like to take the name of Marx in vain, to borrow only his estimate of the past, and not his ability to make the future. Plekhanov did not even think of it when he set out after December 1905 „to put the brakes on“.

But it is precisely this question that Marx raised, without in the least forgetting that he himself in September 1870 regarded insurrection as an act of desparate folly.

... The bourgeois canaille of versailles,“ he wrote, „... presented the Parisians with the alternative of either taking up the fight or succumbing without a struggle. The demoralisation of the working class in the latter case would have been a far greater misfortune than the succumbing on any number of 'leaders'.“

[Marx and Engels, Selected Correspondence, Moscow, 1958, pp. 320 ];

And with this we shall conclude our brief review of the lessons in a policy worthy of the proletariat which Marx teaches in his letters to Kugelmann.

The working class of Russia has already proved once, and will prove again more than once, that it is capable of „storming heaven.“


February 5, 1907

Published in 1907 in the 'pamphlet' Karl Marx Letters to Dr. Kugelmann, edited and with a preface by N. Lenin. Novaya Duma Publishers, St. Petersburg

Published according to the text of the pamphlet.








Lessons of the Commune

Published: Zagranichnaya Gazeta, No. 2 March 23, 1908

Lenin, Volume 13, pages 475 – 478


The article “Lessons of the Commune” published in Zagranichnaya Gazeta (Foreign Gazette), No. 2, March23, 1908 is the verbatim report of a speech made by Lenin. The editors of the newspaper introduced the article with the following remark: “An international meeting was held in Geneva on March 18 to commemorate three proletarian anniversaries: the twenty-fifth anniversary of the death of Marx, the sixtieth anniversary of the March revolution of 1848, and the anniversary of the Paris Commune. Comrade Lenin on behalf of the R.S.D.L.P. spoke at the meeting on the significance of the Commune.”





After the coup d état, which marked the end of the revolution of 4848, France fell under the yoke of the Napoleonic regime for a period of 18 years. This regime brought upon the country not only economic ruin but national humiliation. In rising against the old regime the proletariat under took two tasks—one of them national and the other of a class character—the liberation of France from the German invasion and the socialist emancipation of the workers from capitalism. This union of two tasks forms a unique feature of the Commune.

The bourgeoisie had formed a “government of national defence” and the proletariat had to fight for national independence under its leadership. Actually, it was a government of “national betrayal” which saw its mission in fighting the Paris proletariat. But the proletariat, blinded by patriotic illusions, did not perceive this. The patriotic idea had its origin in the Great Revolution of the eighteenth century; it swayed the minds of the socialists of the Commune; and Blanqui, for example, undoubtedly a revolutionary and an ardent supporter of socialism, could find no better title for his newspaper than the bourgeois cry: “The country is in danger!”

Combining contradictory tasks—patriotism and socialism—was the fatal mistake of the French socialists. In the Manifesto of the International, issued in September 1870, Marx had warned the French proletariat against being misled by a false national idea (see K. Marx and F. Engels, Selected Works, Vol. 1, 1958, p. 497. ) ; the Great Revolution, class antagonisms had sharpened, and whereas at that time the struggle against the whole of European reaction united the entire revolutionary   nation, now the proletariat could no longer combine its interests with the interests of other classes hostile to it; let the bourgeoisie bear the responsibility for the national humiliation—the task of the proletariat was to fight for the socialist emancipation of labour from the yoke of the bourgeoisie.

And indeed the true nature of bourgeois “patriotism” was not long in revealing itself. Having concluded an ignominious peace with the Prussians, the Versailles government proceeded to its immediate task—it launched an attack to wrest the arms that terrified it from the hands of the Paris proletariat. The workers replied by proclaiming the Commune and civil war.

Although the socialist proletariat was split up into numerous sects, the Commune was a splendid example of the unanimity with which the proletariat was able to accomplish the democratic tasks which the bourgeoisie could only proclaim. Without any particularly complex legislation, in a simple, straightforward manner, the proletariat, which had seized power, carried out the democratisation of the social system, abolished the bureaucracy, and made all official posts elective.

But two mistakes destroyed the fruits of the splendid victory. The proletariat stopped half-way: instead of setting about “expropriating the expropriators”, it allowed itself to be led astray by dreams of establishing a higher justice in the country united by a common national task; such institutions as the banks, for example, were not taken over, and Proudhonist theories about a “just exchange”, etc., still prevailed among the socialists. The second mistake was excessive magnanimity on the part of the proletariat: instead of destroying its enemies it sought to exert moral influence on them; it underestimated the significance of direct military operations in civil war, and instead of launching a resolute offensive against Versailles that would have crowned its victory in Paris, it tarried and gave the Versailles government time to gather the dark forces and prepare for the blood-soaked week of May.

But despite all its mistakes the Commune was a superb example of the great proletarian movement of the nineteenth century. Marx set a high value on the historic significance   of the Commune—if, during the treacherous attempt by the Versailles gang to seize the arms of the Paris proletariat, the workers had allowed themselves to be disarmed without a fight, the disastrous effect of the demoralisation, that this weakness would have caused in the proletarian movement, would have been far, far greater than the losses suffered by the working class in the battle to defend its arms. The sacrifices of the Commune, heavy as they were, are made up for by its significance for the general struggle of the proletariat: it stirred the socialist movement throughout Europe, it demonstrated the strength of civil war, it dispelled patriotic illusions, and destroyed the naïve belief in any efforts of the bourgeoisie for common national aims. The Commune taught the European proletariat to pose concretely the tasks of the socialist revolution.

The lesson learnt by the proletariat will not be forgotten. The working class will make use of it, as it has already done in Russia during the December uprising.

The period that preceded the Russian revolution and prepared it bears a certain resemblance to the period of the Napoleonic yoke in France. In Russia, too, the autocratic clique has brought upon the country economic ruin and national humiliation. But the outbreak of revolution was held back for a long time, since social development had not yet created the conditions for a mass movement and, notwithstanding all the courage displayed, the isolated actions against the government in the pre-revolutionary period broke against the apathy of the masses. Only the Social-Democrats, by strenuous and systematic work, educated the masses to the level of the higher forms of struggle—mass actions and armed civil war.

The Social-Democrats were able to shatter the “common national” and “patriotic” delusions of the young proletariat and later, when the Manifesto of October 17th had been wrested from the tsar due to their direct intervention, the proletariat began vigorous preparation for the next, inevitable phase of the revolution—the armed uprising. Having shed “common national” illusions, it concentrated its class forces in its own mass organisations—the Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies, etc. And notwithstanding all the differences in the aims and tasks of the Russian revolution,   compared with the French revolution of 1871, the Russian proletariat had to resort to the same method of struggle as that first used by the Paris Commune—civil war. Mindful of the lessons of the Commune, it knew that the proletariat should not ignore peaceful methods of struggle—they serve its ordinary, day-to-day interests, they are necessary in periods of preparation for revolution—but it must never forget that in certain conditions the class struggle assumes the form of armed conflict and civil war; there are times when the interests of the proletariat call for ruthless extermination of its enemies in open armed clashes. This was first demonstrated by the French proletariat in the Commune and brilliantly confirmed by the Russian proletariat in the December uprising.

And although these magnificent uprisings of the working class were crushed, there will be another uprising, in face of which the forces of the enemies of the proletariat will prove ineffective, and from which the socialist proletariat will emerge completely victorious.







The State and Revolution

(Lenin, Volume 25, pp. 418 - 436)

Chapter III

Experience of the Paris Commune of 1871

Marx's Analysis


1. What Made the Communards' Attempt Heroic?

It is well known that in the autumn of 1870, a few months before the Commune, Marx warned the Paris workers that any attempt to overthrow the government would be the folly of despair. But when, in March 1871, a decisive battle was forced upon the workers and they accepted it, when the uprising had become a fact, Marx greeted the proletarian revolution with the greatest enthusiasm, in spite of unfavorable auguries. Marx did not persist in the pedantic attitude of condemning an “untimely” movement as did the ill-famed Russian renegade from marxism, Plekhanov, who in November 1905 wrote encouragingly about the workers' and peasants' struggle, but after December 1905 cried, liberal fashion: "They should not have taken up arms."

Marx, however, was not only enthusiastic about the heroism of the Communards, who, as he expressed it, "stormed heaven". Although the mass revolutionary movement did not achieve its aim, he regarded it as a historic experience of enormous importance, as a certain advance of the world proletarian revolution, as a practical step that was more important than hundreds of programmes and arguments. Marx endeavored to analyze this experiment, to draw tactical lessons from it and re-examine his theory in the light of it.

The only “correction” Marx thought it necessary to make to the Communist Manifesto he made on the basis of the revolutionary experience of the Paris Commune.

The last preface to the new German edition of the Communist Manifesto, signed by both its authors, is dated June 24, 1872. In this preface the authors, Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, say that the programme of the Communist Manifesto "has in some details become out-of-date", and the go on to say:

"... One thing especially was proved by the Commune, viz., that 'the working class cannot simply lay hold of the ready-made state machinery and wield it for its own purposes'...."

The authors took the words that are in single quotation marks in this passage from Marx's book, The Civil War in France.

Thus, Marx and Engels regarded one principal and fundamental lesson of the Paris Commune as being of such enormous importance that they introduced it as an important correction into the Communist Manifesto.

Most characteristically, it is this important correction that has been distorted by the opportunists, and its meaning probably is not known to nine-tenths, if not ninety-nine-hundredths, of the readers of the Communist Manifesto. We shall deal with this distortion more fully farther on, in a chapter devoted specially to distortions. Here it will be sufficient to note that the current, vulgar “interpretation” of Marx's famous statement just quoted is that Marx here allegedly emphasizes the idea of slow development in contradistinction to the seizure of power, and so on.

As a matter of fact, the exact opposite is the case. Marx's idea is that the working class must break up, smash the "ready-made state machinery", and not confine itself merely to laying hold of it.

On April 12, 1871, i.e., just at the time of the Commune, Marx wrote to Kugelmann:

"If you look up the last chapter of my Eighteenth Brumaire, you will find that I declare that the next attempt of the French Revolution will be no longer, as before, to transfer the bureaucratic-military machine from one hand to another, but to smash it [Marx's italics--the original is zerbrechen], and this is the precondition for every real people's revolution on the Continent. And this is what our heroic Party comrades in Paris are attempting." (Neue Zeit, Vol.XX, 1, 1901-02, p. 709.(
(The letters of Marx to Kugelmann have appeared in Russian in no less than two editions, one of which I edited and supplied with a preface.)

The words, "to smash the bureaucratic-military machine", briefly express the principal lesson of Marxism regarding the tasks of the proletariat during a revolution in relation to the state. And this is the lesson that has been not only completely ignored, but positively distorted by the prevailing, Kautskyite, “interpretation” of Marxism!

As for Marx's reference to The Eighteenth Brumaire, we have quoted the relevant passage in full above.

It is interesting to note, in particular, two points in the above-quoted argument of Marx. First, he restricts his conclusion to the Continent. This was understandable in 1871, when Britain was still the model of a purely capitalist country, but without a militarist clique and, to a considerable degree, without a bureaucracy. Marx therefore excluded Britain, where a revolution, even a people's revolution, then seemed possible, and indeed was possible, without the precondition of destroying "ready-made state machinery".

Today, in 1917, at the time of the first great imperialist war, this restriction made by Marx is no longer valid. Both Britain and America, the biggest and the last representatives — in the whole world — of Anglo-Saxon “liberty”, in the sense that they had no militarist cliques and bureaucracy, have completely sunk into the all-European filthy, bloody morass of bureaucratic-military institutions which subordinate everything to themselves, and suppress everything. Today, in Britain and America, too, "the precondition for every real people's revolution" is the smashing, the destruction of the "ready-made state machinery" (made and brought up to the “European”, general imperialist, perfection in those countries in the years 1914-17).

Secondly, particular attention should be paid to Marx's extremely profound remark that the destruction of the bureaucratic-military state machine is "the precondition for every real people's revolution". This idea of a "people's revolution seems strange coming from Marx, so that the Russian Plekhanovites and Mensheviks, those followers of Struve who wish to be regarded as Marxists, might possibly declare such an expression to be a "slip of the pen" on Marx's part. They have reduced Marxism to such a state of wretchedly liberal distortion that nothing exists for them beyond the antithesis between bourgeois revolution and proletarian revolution, and even this antithesis they interpret in an utterly lifeless way.

If we take the revolutions of the 20th century as examples we shall, of course, have to admit that the Portuguese and the Turkish revolutions are both bourgeois revolutions. Neither of them, however, is a "people's" revolution, since in neither does the mass of the people, their vast majority, come out actively, independently, with their own economic and political demands to any noticeable degree. By contrast, although the Russian bourgeois revolution of 1905-07 displayed no such “brilliant” successes as at time fell to the Portuguese and Turkish revolutions, it was undoubtedly a "real people's" revolution, since the mass of the people, their majority, the very lowest social groups, crushed by oppression and exploitation, rose independently and stamped on the entire course of the revolution the imprint of their own demands, their attempt to build in their own way a new society in place of the old society that was being destroyed.

In Europe, in 1871, the proletariat did not constitute the majority of the people in any country on the Continent. A "people's" revolution, one actually sweeping the majority into its stream, could be such only if it embraced both the proletariat and the peasants. These two classes then constituted the “people”. These two classes are united by the fact that the "bureaucratic-military state machine" oppresses, crushes, exploits them. To smash this machine, to break it up, is truly in the interest of the “people”, of their majority, of the workers and most of the peasants, is "the precondition" for a free alliance of the poor peasant and the proletarians, whereas without such an alliance democracy is unstable and socialist transformation is impossible.

As is well known, the Paris Commune was actually working its way toward such an alliance, although it did not reach its goal owing to a number of circumstances, internal and external.

Consequently, in speaking of a "real people's revolution", Marx, without in the least discounting the special features of the petty bourgeois (he spoke a great deal about them and often), took strict account of the actual balance of class forces in most of the continental countries of Europe in 1871. On the other hand, he stated that the “smashing” of the state machine was required by the interests of both the workers and the peasants, that it united them, that it placed before them the common task of removing the “parasite” and of replacing it by something new.

By what exactly?



2. What is to Replace the Smashed State Machine?

In 1847, in the Communist Manifesto, Marx's answer to this question was as yet a purely abstract one; to be exact, it was an answer that indicated he tasks, but not the ways of accomplishing them. The answer given in the Communist Manifesto was that this machine was to be replaced by "the proletariat organized as the ruling class", by the "winning of the battle of democracy".

Marx did not indulge in utopias; he expected the experience of the mass movement to provide the reply to the question as to the specific forms this organisation of the proletariat as the ruling class would assume and as to the exact manner in which this organisation would be combined with the most complete, most consistent "winning of the battle of democracy."

Marx subjected the experience of the Commune, meagre as it was, to the most careful analysis in The Civil War in France. Let us quote the most important passages of this work. [All the following quotes in this Chapter, with one exception, are so citied - Ed.]

Originating from the Middle Ages, there developed in the 19th century "the centralized state power, with its ubiquitous organs of standing army, police, bureaucracy, clergy, and judicature." With the development of class antagonisms between capital and labor, "state power assumed more and more the character of a public force organized for the suppression of the working class, of a machine of class rule. After every revolution, which marks an advance in the class struggle, the purely coercive character of the state power stands out in bolder and bolder relief." After the revolution of 1848-49, state power became "the national war instruments of capital against labor". The Second Empire consolidated this.

"The direct antithesis to the empire was the Commune." It was the "specific form" of "a republic that was not only to remove the monarchical form of class rule, but class rule itself."

What was this “specific” form of the proletarian, socialist republic? What was the state it began to create?

"The first decree of the Commune, therefore, was the suppression of the standing army, and the substitution for it of the armed people."

This demand now figures in the programme of every party calling itself socialist. The real worth of their programme, however, is best shown by the behavior of our Social-Revolutionists and mensheviks, who, right after the revolution of February 27, refused to carry out this demand!

"The Commune was formed of the municipal councillors, chosen by universal suffrage in the various wards of the town, responsible and revocable at any time. The majority of its members were naturally working men, or acknowledged representatives of the working class.... The police, which until then had been the instrument of the Government, was at once stripped of its political attributes, and turned into the responsible, and at all times revocable, agent of the Commune. So were the officials of all other branches of the administration. From the members of the Commune downwards, the public service had to be done at workmen's wages. The privileges and the representation allowances of the high dignitaries of state disappeared along with the high dignitaries themselves.... Having once got rid of the standing army and the police, the instruments of physical force of the old government, the Commune proceeded at once to break the instrument of spiritual suppression, the power of the priests.... The judicial functionaries lost that sham independence... they were thenceforward to be elective, responsible, and revocable."

The Commune, therefore, appears to have replaced the smashed state machine “only” by fuller democracy: abolition of the standing army; all officials to be elected and subject to recall. But as a matter of fact this “only” signifies a gigantic replacement of certain institutions by other institutions of a fundamentally different type. This is exactly a case of "quantity being transformed into quality": democracy, introduced as fully and consistently as is at all conceivable, is transformed from bourgeois into proletarian democracy; from the state (= a special force for the suppression of a particular class) into something which is no longer the state proper.

It is still necessary to suppress the bourgeoisie and crush their resistance. This was particularly necessary for the Commune; and one of the reasons for its defeat was that it did not do this with sufficient determination. The organ of suppression, however, is here the majority of the population, and not a minority, as was always the case under slavery, serfdom, and wage slavery. And since the majority of people itself suppresses its oppressors, a 'special force" for suppression is no longer necessary! In this sense, the state begins to wither away. Instead of the special institutions of a privileged minority (privileged officialdom, the chiefs of the standing army), the majority itself can directly fulfil all these functions, and the more the functions of state power are performed by the people as a whole, the less need there is for the existence of this power.

In this connection, the following measures of the Commune, emphasized by Marx, are particularly noteworthy: the abolition of all representation allowances, and of all monetary privileges to officials, the reduction of the remuneration of all servants of the state to the level of "workmen's wages". This shows more clearly than anything else the turn from bourgeois to proletarian democracy, from the democracy of the oppressors to that of the oppressed classes, from the state as a "special force" for the suppression of a particular class to the suppression of the oppressors by the general force of the majority of the people--the workers and the peasants. And it is on this particularly striking point, perhaps the most important as far as the problem of the state is concerned, that the ideas of Marx have been most completely ignored! In popular commentaries, the number of which is legion, this is not mentioned. The thing done is to keep silent about it as if it were a piece of old-fashioned “naivete”, just as Christians, after their religion had been given the status of state religion, “forgot” the “naivete” of primitive Christianity with its democratic revolutionary spirit.

The reduction of the remuneration of high state officials seem “simply” a demand of naive, primitive democracy. One of the “founders” of modern opportunism, the ex-Social-Democrat Eduard Bernstein, has more than once repeated the vulgar bourgeois jeers at “primitive” democracy. Like all opportunists, and like the present Kautskyites, he did not understand at all that, first of all, the transition from capitalism to socialism is impossible without a certain “reversion” to “primitive” democracy (for how else can the majority, and then the whole population without exception, proceed to discharge state functions?); and that, secondly, "primitive democracy" based on capitalism and capitalist culture is not the same as primitive democracy in prehistoric or precapitalist times. Capitalist culture has created large-scale production, factories, railways, the postal service, telephones, etc., and on this basis the great majority of the functions of the old "state power" have become so simplified and can be reduced to such exceedingly simple operations of registration, filing, and checking that they can be easily performed by every literate person, can quite easily be performed for ordinary "workmen's wages", and that these functions can (and must) be stripped of every shadow of privilege, of every semblance of "official grandeur".

All officials, without exception, elected and subject to recall at any time, their salaries reduced to the level of ordinary "workmen's wages" — these simple and "self-evident" democratic measures, while completely uniting the interests of the workers and the majority of the peasants, at the same time serve as a bridge leading from capitalism to socialism. These measures concern the reorganization of the state, the purely political reorganization of society; but, of course, they acquire their full meaning and significance only in connection with the "expropriation of the expropriators" either bring accomplished or in preparation, i.e., with the transformation of capitalist private ownership of the means of production into social ownership.

"The Commune," Marx wrote, "made the catchword of all bourgeois revolutions, cheap government, a reality, by abolishing the two greatest sources of expenditure--the army and the officialdom."

From the peasants, as from other sections of the petty bourgeoisie, only an insignificant few "rise to the top", "get on in the world" in the bourgeois sense, i.e., become either ell-to-do, bourgeois, or officials in secure and privileged positions. In every capitalist country where there are peasants (as there are in most capitalist countries), the vast majority of them are oppressed by the government and long for its overthrow, long for “cheap” government. This can be achieved only by the proletariat; and by achieving it, the proletariat at the same time takes a step towards the socialist reorganization of the state.



3. Abolition of Parliamentarism

"The Commune," Marx wrote, "was to be a working, not a parliamentary, body, executive and legislative at the same time....

"Instead of deciding once in three or six years which member of the ruling class was to represent and repress [ver- and zertreten] the people in parliament, universal suffrage was to serve the people constituted in communes, as individual suffrage serves every other employer in the search for workers, foremen and accountants for his business."

Owing to the prevalence of social-chauvinism and opportunism, this remarkable criticism of parliamentarism, made in 1871, also belongs now to the "forgotten words" of Marxism. The professional Cabinet Ministers and parliamentarians, the traitors to the proletariat and the “practical” socialists of our day, have left all criticism of parliamentarism to the anarchists, and, on this wonderfully reasonable ground, they denounce all criticism of parliamentarism as “anarchism”!! It is not surprising that the proletariat of the “advanced” parliamentary countries, disgusted with such “socialists” as the Scheidemanns, Davids, Legiens, Sembats, Renaudels, Hendersons, Vanderveldes, Staunings, Brantings, Bissolatis, and Co., has been with increasing frequency giving its sympathies to anarcho-syndicalism, in spite of the fact that the latter is merely the twin brother of opportunism.

For Marx, however, revolutionary dialectics was never the empty fashionable phrase, the toy rattle, which Plekhanov, Kautsky and others have made of it. Marx knew how to break with anarchism ruthlessly for its inability to make use even of the “pigsty” of bourgeois parliamentarism, especially when the situation was obviously not revolutionary; but at the same time he knew how to subject parliamentarism to genuinely revolutionary proletarian criticism.

To decide once every few years which members of the ruling class is to repress and crush the people through parliament--this is the real essence of bourgeois parliamentarism, not only in parliamentary- constitutional monarchies, but also in the most democratic republics.

But if we deal with the question of the state, and if we consider parliamentarism as one of the institutions of the state, from the point of view of the tasks of the proletariat in this field, what is the way out of parliamentarism? How can it be dispensed with?

Once again, we must say: the lessons of Marx, based on the study of the Commune, have been so completely forgotten that the present-day "Social-Democrat" (i.e., present-day traitor to socialism) really cannot understand any criticism of parliamentarism other than anarchist or reactionary criticism.

The way out of parliamentarism is not, of course, the abolition of representative institutions and the elective principle, but the conversion of the representative institutions from talking shops into “working” bodies. "The Commune was to be a working, not a parliamentary, body, executive and legislative at the same time."

"A working, not a parliamentary body"--this is a blow straight from the shoulder at the present-day parliamentarian country, from America to Switzerland, from France to Britain, Norway and so forth--in these countries the real business of “state” is performed behind the scenes and is carried on by the departments, chancelleries, and General Staffs. parliament is given up to talk for the special purpose of fooling the "common people". This is so true that even in the Russian republic, a bourgeois-democratic republic, all these sins of parliamentarism came out at once, even before it managed to set up a real parliament. The heroes of rotten philistinism, such as the skobelevs and tseretelis, the Chernovs and Avksentyevs, have even succeeded in polluting the Soviets after the fashion of the most disgusting bourgeois parliamentarism, in converting them into mere talking shops. In the Soviets, the “socialist” Ministers are fooling the credulous rustics with phrase-mongering and resolutions. In the government itself a sort of permanent shuffle is going on in order that, on the one hand, as many Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks as possible may in turn get near the “pie”, the lucrative and honorable posts, and that, on the other hand, the “attention” of the people may be “engaged”. meanwhile the chancelleries and army staffs “do” the business of “state”.

Dyelo Naroda, the organ of the ruling Socialist-Revolutionary Party, recently admitted in a leading article--with the matchless frankness of people of "good society", in which “all” are engaged in political prostitution - that even in the ministeries headed by the “socialists” (save the mark!), the whole bureaucratic apparatus is in fact unchanged, is working in the old way and quite “freely” sabotaging revolutionary measures! Even without this admission, does not the actual history of the participation of the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks in the government prove this? It is noteworthy, however, that in the ministerial company of the Cadets, the Chernovs, Rusanovs, Zenzinovs, and other editors of Dyelo Naroda have so completely lost all sense of shame as to brazenly assert, as if it were a mere bagetelle, that in “their” ministeries everything is unchanged!! Revolutionary-democratic phrases to gull the rural Simple Simons, and bureaucracy and red tape to "gladden the hearts" of the capitalists--that is the essence of the “honest” coalition.

The Commune substitutes for the venal and rotten parliamentarism of bourgeois society institutions in which freedom of opinion and discussion does not degenerate into deception, for the parliamentarians themselves have to work, have to execute their own laws, have themselves to test the results achieved in reality, and to account directly to their constituents. Representative institutions remain, but there is no parliamentarism here as a special system, as the division of labor between the legislative and the executive, as a privileged position for the deputies. We cannot imagine democracy, even proletarian democracy, without representative institutions, but we can and must imagine democracy without parliamentarism, if criticism of bourgeois society is not mere words for us, if the desire to overthrow the rule of the bourgeoisie is our earnest and sincere desire, and not a mere “election” cry for catching workers' votes, as it is with the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries, and also the Scheidemanns and Legiens, the Smblats and Vanderveldes.

It is extremely instructive to note that, in speaking of the function of those officials who are necessary for the Commune and for proletarian democracy, Marx compares them to the workers of "every other employer", that is, of the ordinary capitalist enterprise, with its "workers, foremen, and accountants".

There is no trace of utopianism in Marx, in the sense that he made up or invented a “new” society. No, he studied the birth of the new society out of the old, and the forms of transition from the latter to the former, as a mass proletarian movement and tried to draw practical lessons from it. He “Learned” from the Commune, just as all the great revolutionary thinkers learned unhesitatingly from the experience of great movements of the oppressed classes, and never addressed them with pedantic “homilies” (such as Plekhanov's: "They should not have taken up arms" or Tsereteli's: "A class must limit itself").

Abolishing the bureaucracy at once, everywhere and completely, is out of the question. It is a utopia. But to smash the old bureaucratic machine at once and to begin immediately to construct a new one that will make possible the gradual abolition of all bureaucracy--this is not a utopia, it is the experience of the Commune, the direct and immediate task of the revolutionary proletariat.

Capitalism simplifies the functions of “state” administration; it makes it possible to cast “bossing” aside and to confine the whole matter to the organization of the proletarians (as the ruling class), which will hire "workers, foremen and accountants" in the name of the whole of society.

We are not utopians, we do not “dream” of dispensing at once with all administration, with all subordination. These anarchist dreams, based upon incomprehension of the tasks of the proletarian dictatorship, are totally alien to Marxism, and, as a matter of fact, serve only to postpone the socialist revolution until people are different. No, we want the socialist revolution with people as they are now, with people who cannot dispense with subordination, control, and "foremen and accountants".

The subordination, however, must be to the armed vanguard of all the exploited and working people, i.e., to the proletariat. A beginning can and must be made at once, overnight, to replace the specific “bossing” of state officials by the simple functions of "foremen and accountants", functions which are already fully within the ability of the average town dweller and can well be performed for "workmen's wages".

We, the workers, shall organize large-scale production on the basis of what capitalism has already created, relying on our own experience as workers, establishing strict, iron discipline backed up by the state power of the armed workers. We shall reduce the role of state officials to that of simply carrying out our instructions as responsible, revocable, modestly paid "foremen and accountants" (of course, with the aid of technicians of all sorts, types and degrees). This is our proletarian task, this is what we can and must start with in accomplishing the proletarian revolution. Such a beginning, on the basis of large-scale production, will of itself lead to the gradual "withering away" of all bureaucracy, to the gradual creation of an order--an order without inverted commas, an order bearing no similarity to wage slavery--an order under which the functions of control and accounting, becoming more and more simple, will be performed by each in turn, will then become a habit and will finally die out as the special functions of a special section of the population.

A witty German Social-Democrat of the seventies of the last century called the postal service an example of the socialist economic system. This is very true. At the present the postal service is a business organized on the lines of state-capitalist monopoly. Imperialism is gradually transforming all trusts into organizations of a similar type, in which, standing over the “common” people, who are overworked and starved, one has the same bourgeois bureaucracy. But the mechanism of social management is here already to hand. Once we have overthrown the capitalists, crushed the resistance of these exploiters with the iron hand of the armed workers, and smashed the bureaucratic machinery of the modern state, we shall have a splendidly-equipped mechanism, freed from the “parasite”, a mechanism which can very well be set going by the united workers themselves, who will hire technicians, foremen and accountants, and pay them all, as indeed all “state” officials in general, workmen's wages. Here is a concrete, practical task which can immediately be fulfilled in relation to all trusts, a task whose fulfilment will rid the working people of exploitation, a task which takes account of what the Commune had already begun to practice (particularly in building up the state).

To organize the whole economy on the lines of the postal service so that the technicians, foremen and accountants, as well as all officials, shall receive salaries no higher than "a workman's wage", all under the control and leadership of the armed proletariat--that is our immediate aim. This is what will bring about the abolition of parliamentarism and the preservation of representative institutions. This is what will rid the laboring classes of the bourgeoisie's prostitution of these institutions.

4. Organisation of National Unity

"In a brief sketch of national organization which the Commune had no time to develop, it states explicitly that the Commune was to be the political form of even the smallest village...." The communes were to elect the "National Delegation" in Paris.

"... The few but important functions which would still remain for a central government were not to to be suppressed, as had been deliberately mis-stated, but were to be transferred to communal, i.e., strictly responsible, officials.

"... National unity was not to be broken, but, on the contrary, organized by the communal constitution; it was to become a reality by the destruction of state power which posed as the embodiment of that unity yet wanted to be independent of, and superior to, the nation, on whose body it was but a parasitic excrescence. While the merely repressive organs of the old governmental power were to be amputated, its legitimate functions were to be wrested from an authority claiming the right to stand above society, and restored to the responsible servants of society."

The extent to which the opportunists of present-day Social-Democracy have failed--perhaps it would be more true to say, have refused--to understand these observations of Marx is best shown by that book of Herostratean fame of the renegade Bernstein, The Premises of Socialism and the Tasks of the Social-Democrats. It is in connection with the above passage from Marx that Bernstein wrote that "as far as its political content", this programme "displays, in all its essential features, the greatest similarity to the federalism of Proudhon.... In spite of all the other points of difference between Marx and the 'petty-bourgeois' Proudhon [Bernstein places the word "petty-bourgeois" in inverted commas, to make it sound ironical] on these points, their lines of reasoning run as close as could be." Of course, Bernstein continues, the importance of the municipalities is growing, but "it seems doubtful to me whether the first job of democracy would be such a dissolution [Auflosung] of the modern states and such a complete transformation [Umwandlung] of their organization as is visualized by Marx and Proudhon (the formation of a National Assembly from delegates of the provincial of district assemblies, which, in their turn, would consist of delegates from the communes), so that consequently the previous mode of national representation would disappear." (Bernstein, Premises, German edition, 1899, pp.134 and 136)

To confuse Marx's view on the "destruction of state power, a parasitic excrescence", with Proudhon's federalism is positively monstrous! But it is no accident, for it never occurs to the opportunist that Marx does not speak here at all about federalism as opposed to centralism, but about smashing the old, bourgeois state machine which exists in all bourgeois countries.

The only thing that does occur to the opportunist is what he sees around him, in an environment of petty-bourgeois philistinism and “reformists” stagnation, namely, only “municipalities”! The opportunist has even grown out of the habit of thinking about proletarian revolution.

It is ridiculous. But the remarkable thing is that nobody argued with Bernstein on this point. Bernstein has been refuted by many, especially by Plekhanov in Russian literature and by Kautsky in European literature, but neither of them has said anything about this distortion of Marx by Bernstein.

The opportunist has so much forgotten how to think in a revolutionary way and to dwell on revolution that he attributes “federalism” to Marx, whom he confuses with the founder of anarchism, Proudhon. As for Kautsky and Plekhanov, who claim to be orthodox Marxists and defenders of the theory of revolutionary Marxism, they are silent on this point! Here is one of the roots of the extreme vulgarization of the views on the difference between Marxism and anarchism, which is characteristic of both the Kautskyites and the opportunists, and which we shall discuss again later.

There is not a trace of federalism in Marx's above-quoted observation on the experience of the Commune. Marx agreed with Proudhon on the very point that the opportunist Bernstein did not see. Marx disagreed with Proudhon on the very point on which Bernstein found a similarity between them.

Marx agreed with Proudhon in that they both stood for the “smashing” of the modern state machine. Neither the opportunists nor the Kautskyites wish to see the similarity of views on this point between Marxism and anarchism (both Proudhon and Bakunin) because this is where they have departed from Marxism.

Marx disagreed both with Proudhon and Bakunin precisely on the question of federalism (not to mention the dictatorship of the proletariat). Federalism as a principle follows logically from the petty-bourgeois views of anarchism. Marx was a centralist. There is no departure whatever from centralism in his observations just quoted. Only those who are imbued with the philistine "superstitious belief" in the state can mistake the destruction of the bourgeois state machine for the destruction of centralism!

Now if the proletariat and the poor peasants take state power into their own hands, organize themselves quite freely in communes, and unite the action of all the communes in striking at capital, in crushing the resistance of the capitalists, and in transferring the privately-owned railways, factories, land and so on to the entire nation, to the whole of society, won't that be centralism? Won't that be the most consistent democratic centralism and, moreover, proletarian centralism?

Bernstein simply cannot conceive of the possibility of voluntary centralism, of the voluntary fusion of the proletarian communes, for the sole purpose of destroying bourgeois rule and the bourgeois state machine. Like all philistines, Bernstein pictures centralism as something which can be imposed and maintained solely from above, and solely by the bureaucracy and military clique.

As though foreseeing that his views might be distorted, Marx expressly emphasized that the charge that the Commune had wanted to destroy national unity, to abolish the central authority, was a deliberate fraud. Marx purposely used the words: "National unity was... to be organized", so as to oppose conscious, democratic, proletarian centralism to bourgeois, military, bureaucratic centralism.

But there are none so deaf as those who will not hear. And the very thing the opportunists of present-day Social-Democracy do not want to hear about it the destruction of state power, the amputation of the parasitic excrescence.



5. Abolition of the Parasite State

We have already quoted Marx's words on the subject, and we must now supplement them.

"It is generally the fate of new historical creations," he wrote, "to be mistaken for the counterpart of older and even defunct forms of social life, to which they may bear a certain likeness. Thus, this new Commune, which breaks [bricht, smashes] the modern state power, has been regarded as a revival of the medieval communes... as a federation of small states (as Montesquieu and the Girondins visualized it)... as an exaggerated form of the old struggle against overcentralization....

"... The Communal Constitution would have restored to the social body all the forces hitherto absorbed by that parasitic excrescence, the 'state', feeding upon and hampering the free movement of society. By this one act it would have initiated the regeneration of France....

"... The Communal Constitution would have brought the rural producers under the intellectual lead of the central towns of their districts, and there secured to them, in the town working men, the natural trustees of their interests. The very existence of the Commune involved, as a matter of course, local self-government, but no longer as a counterpoise to state power, now become superfluous."

"Breaking state power", which as a "parasitic excrescence"; its “amputation”, its “smashing”; "state power, now become superfluous"--these are the expressions Marx used in regard to the state when appraising and analyzing the experience of the Commune.

All this was written a little less than half a century ago; and now one has to engage in excavations, as it were, in order to bring undistorted Marxism to the knowledge of the mass of the people. The conclusions drawn from the observation of the last great revolution which Marx lived through were forgotten just when the time for the next great proletarian revolution has arrived.

"... The multiplicity of interpretations to which the Commune has been subjected, and the multiplicity of interests which expressed themselves in it show that it was a thoroughly flexible political form, while all previous forms of government had been essentially repressive. Its true secret was this: it was essentially a working-class government, the result of the struggle of the producing against the appropriating class, the political form at last discovered under which the economic emancipation of labor could be accomplished....

"Except on this last condition, the Communal Constitution would have been an impossibility and a delusion...."

The utopians busied themselves with “discovering” political forms under which the socialist transformation of society was to take place. The anarchists dismissed the question of political forms altogether. The opportunists of present-day Social-Democracy accepted the bourgeois political forms of the parliamentary democratic state as the limit which should not be overstepped; they battered their foreheads praying before this “model”, and denounced as anarchism every desire to break these forms.

Marx deduced from the whole history of socialism and the political struggle that the state was bound to disappear, and that the transitional form of its disappearance (the transition from state to non-state) would be the "proletariat organized as the ruling class". Marx, however, did not set out to discover the political forms of this future stage. He limited himself to carefully observing French history, to analyzing it, and to drawing the conclusion to which the year 1851 had led, namely, that matters were moving towards destruction of the bourgeois state machine.

And when the mass revolutionary movement of the proletariat burst forth, Marx, in spite of its failure, in spite of its short life and patent weakness, began to study the forms it had discovered.

The Commune is the form "at last discovered" by the proletarian revolution, under which the economic emancipation of labor can take place.

The Commune is the first attempt by a proletarian revolution to smash the bourgeois state machine; and it is the political form "at last discovered", by which the smashed state machine can and must be replaced.

We shall see further on that the Russian revolutions of 1905 and 1917, in different circumstances and under different conditions, continue the work of the Commune and confirm Marx's brilliant historical analysis.





The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky

(Lenin, Volume 28, pp 229)


How Kautsky Turned Marx Into A Common Liberal



The fundamental question that Kautsky discusses in his pamphlet is that of the very essence of proletarian revolution, namely, the dictatorship of the proletariat. This is a question that is of the greatest importance for all countries, especially for the advanced ones, especially for those at war, and especially at the present time. One may say without fear of exaggeration that this is the key problem of the entire proletarian class struggle. It is, therefore, necessary to pay particular attention to it .

(...)

But this means he utterly fails to understand what is what! One cannot help smiling at Kautsky’s effort to make it appear that there are people who preach “contempt for democracy” (p. IA) and so forth. That is the sort of twaddle Kautsky uses to befog and confuse the issue, for he talks like the liberals, speaking of democracy in general, and not of bourgeois democracy; he even avoids using this precise, class term, and, instead, tries to speak about “presocialist” democracy. This windbag devotes almost one-third of his pamphlet, twenty pages out of sixty-three, to this twaddle, which is so agreeable to the bourgeoisie, for it is tantamount to embellishing bourgeois democracy, and obscures the question of the proletarian revolution.

But, alter all, the title of Kautsky’s pamphlet is The Dictatorship of the Proletariat. Everybody knows that this is the very essence of Marx’s doctrine; and after a lot of irrelevant twaddle Kautsky was obliged to quote Marx’s words on the dictatorship of the proletariat.

But the way in which he the “Marxist” did it was simply farcical! Listen to this:

This view” (which Kautsky dubs “contempt for democracy") “rests upon a single word of Karl Marx’s”. This is what Kautsky literally says on page 20. And on page 60 the same thing is repeated even in the form that they (the Bolsheviks) “opportunely recalled the little word” (that is literally what he says-des Wörtchens!!)about the dictatorship of the proletariat which Marx once used in 1875 in a letter”.

Here is Marx’s “little word":

Between capitalist and communist society lies the period of the revolutionary transformation of the one into the other. Corresponding to this is also a political transition period in which the state can be nothing but the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat.”

First of all, to call this classical reasoning of Marx’s, which sums up the whole of his revolutionary teaching, “a single word” and even “a little word,” is an insult to and complete renunciation of Marxism. It must not be forgotten that Kautsky knows Marx almost by heart, and, judging by all he has written, he has in his desk, or in his head, a number of pigeon-holes in which all that was ever written by Marx is most carefully filed so as to be ready at hand for quotation. Kautsky must know that both Marx and Engels, in their letters as well as in their published works, repeatedly spoke about the dictatorship of the proletariat, before and especially after the Paris Commune. Kautsky must know that the formula “dictatorship of the proletariat” is merely a more historically concrete and scientifically exact formulation of the proletariat’s task of “smashing” the bourgeois state machine, about which both Marx and Engels, in summing up the experience of the Revolution of 1848, and, still more so, of 1871, spoke for forty years, between 1852 and 1891,

How is this monstrous distortion of Marxism by that Marxist pedant Kautsky to be explained? As far as the philosophical roots of this phenomenon are concerned, it amounts to the substitution of eclecticism and sophistry for dialectics. Kautsky is a past master at this sort of substitution. Regarded from the point of view of practical politics, it amounts to subservience to the opportunists, that is, in the last analysis to the bourgeoisie. Since the outbreak of thel’ war, Kautsky has made increasingly rapid progress in this art of being a Marxist in words and a lackey of the bourgeoisie in deeds, until he has become a virtuoso at it.

One feels even more convinced of this when examining the remarkable way in which Kautsky “interprets” Marx’s “little word” about the dictatorship of the proletariat. Listen to this:

Marx, unfortunately, neglected to show us in greater detail how he conceived this dictatorship ....” (This is an utterly mendacious phrase of a renegade, for Marx and Engels gave us, indeed, quite a number of most detailed indications, which Kautsky, the Marxist pedant, has deliberately ignored.) “Literally, the word dictatorship means the abolition of democracy. But, of course, taken literally, this word also means the undivided rule of a single person unrestricted by any laws-an autocracy, which differs from despotism only insofar as it is not meant as a permanent state institution, but as a transient emergency measure.

The term, dictatorship of the proletariat’, hence not the dictatorship of a single individual, but of a class, ipso facto precludes the possibility that Marx in this connection had in mind a dictatorship in the literal sense of the term.

He speaks here not of a form of government, but of a conditton, which must necessarily arise wherever the proletariat has gained political power. That Marx in this case did not have in mind a form of government is proved by the fact that he was of the opinion that in Britain and America the transition might take place peacefully, i.e., in a democratic way” (p. 20).

We have deliberately quoted this argument in full so that the reader may clearly see the methods Kautsky the “theoretician” employs.

Kautsky chose to approach the question in such a way as to begin with a definition of the word” dictatorship.

Very well. Everyone has a sacred right to approach a question in whatever way he pleases. One must only distinguish a serious and honest approach from a dishonest one. Anyone who wants to be serious in approaching the question in this way ought to give his own definition of the “word”. Then the question would be put fairly and squarely. But Kautsky does not do that. “Literally,” he writes, “the word dictatorship means the abolition of democracy.”

In the first place, this is not a definition. If Kautsky wanted to avoid giving a definition of the concept dictatorship, why did he choose this particular approach to the question?

Secondly, it is obviously wrong. It is natural for a liberal to speak of “democracy” in general; but a Marxist will never forget to ask: “for what class?” Everyone knows, for instance (and Kautskythe “historian” knows it too), that rebellions, or even strong ferment, among the slaves in ancient times at once revealed the fact that the ancient state was essentially a dictatorship of the slave owners. Did this dictatorship abolish democracy among, and for, the slaveowners? Everyhody knows that it did not.

Kautsky the “Marxist” made this monstrously absurd and untrue statement because he forgot“ the class struggle ....

To transform Kautsky’s liberal and false assertion into a Marxist and true one, one must say: dictatorship does not necessarily1 mean the abolition of democracy for the class that exercises the dictatorship over other classes; but it does mean the abolition (or very material restriction, which is also a form of abolition) of democracy for the class over which, or against which, the dictatorship is exercised.

But, however true this assertion may be, it does not give a definition of dictatorship.

Let us examine Kautsky’s next sentence:

. . . But, of course, taken literally, this word also means the undivided rule of a single person unrestricted by any laws ....”

Like a blind puppy sniffing at random first in one direction and then in another, Kautsky accidentally stumbled upon one true idea (namely, that dictatorship is rule unrestricted by any laws), nevertheless, he failed to give a definition of dictatorship, and, moreover, he made an obvious historical blunder, namely, that dictatorship means the rule of a single person. This is even grammatically incor rect, since dictatorship may also be exercised by a handful of persons, or by an oligarchy, or by a class, etc.

Kautsky then goes on to point out the difference between dictatorship and despotism, but, although what he says is obviously incorrect, we shall not dwell upon it, as it is wholly irrelevant to the question that interests us. Everyone knows Kautsky’s inclination to turn from the twentieth century to the eighteenth, and from the eighteenth century to classical antiquity, and we hope that the German proletariat, after it has attained its dictatorship, will bear this inclination of his in mind and appoint him, say, teacher of ancient history at some Gymnasium. To try to evade a definition of the dictatorship of the proletariat by philosophising about despotism is either crass stupidity or very clumsy trickery.

As a result, we find that, having undertaken to discuss the dictatorship, Kautsky rattled off a great deal of manifest lies, but has given no definition! Yet, instead of relying on his mental faculties he could have used his memory to extract from “pigeon-holes” all those instances in which Marx speaks of dictatorship. Had he done so, he would certainly have arrived either at the following definition or at one in substance coinciding with it:

Dictatorship is rule based directly upon force and unrestricted by any laws.

The revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat is rule won and maintained by the use of violence by the proletariat against the bourgeoisie, rule that is unrestricted by any laws.

( … )

In defining dictatorship, Kautsky tried his utmost to conceal from the reader the fundamental feature of this concept, namely, revolutionary violence. But now the truth is out: it is a question of the contrast between peaceful and violent revolutions.

That is the crux of the matter. Kautsky has to resort to all these subterfuges, sophistries and falsifications only to excuse himself from violent revolution, and to conceal his renunciation of it, his desertion to the side of the liberal labour policy, i.e., to the side of the bourgeoisie. That is the crux of the matter.

Kautsky the “historian” so shamelessly falsifies history that he “forgets” the fundamental fact that pre-monopoly capitalism-which actually reached its zenith in the seventies-was by virtue of its fundamental economic traits, which found most typical expression in Britain and in America, distinguished by a, relatively speaking, maximum fondness for peace and freedom. Imperialism, on the other hand, i.e., monopoly capitalism, which finally matured only in the twentieth century, is, by virtue of its fundamental economic traits, distinguished by a minimum fondness for peace and freedom, and by a maximum and universal development of militarism. To “fail to notice” this in discussing the extent to which a peaceful or violent revolution is typical or probable is to stoop to the level of a most ordinary lackey of the bourgeoisie.

Second subterfuge. The Paris Commune was a dictatorship of the proletariat, but it was elected by universal suffrage, i.e., without depriving the bourgeoisie of the franchise, i.e., democratically”. And Kautsky says triumphantly: “... The dictatorship of the proletariat was for Marx” (or: according to Marx) “a condition which ;necessarily follows from pure democracy, if the proletariat forms the majority” (bei überwiegendem. Proletariat, S. 21).

This argument of Kautsky’s is so amusing that one truly suffers from a veritable embarras de richesses (an embarrassment due to the wealth ... of objections that can be made to it). Firstly, it is well known that the flower, the General Staff, the upper sections of the bourgeoisie, had fled from Paris to Versailles. In Versailles there was the “socialist” Louis Blanc-which, by the way, proves the falsity of Kautsky’s assertion that “all trends” of socialism took part in the Paris Commune. Is it not ridiculous to represent the division of the inhabitants of Paris into two belligerent camps, one of which embraced the entire militant and politically active section of the bourgeoisie, as “pure democracy” with “universal suffrage"?

Secondly, the Paris Commune waged war against Versailles as the workers’ government of France against the bourgeois government. What have “pure democracy” and “universal suffrage” to do with it, when Paris was deciding the fate of France? When Marx expressed the opinion that the Paris, Commune had committed a mistake in failing to seize the bank, which belonged to the whole of France, did he not proceed from the principles and practice of “pure democracy”?

In actual fact, it is obvious that Kautsky is writing in a country where the police forbid people to laugh “in crowds,” otherwise Kautsky would have been killed by ridicule.

Thirdly, I would respectfully remind Mr. Kautsky, who has Marx and Engels off pat, of the following appraisal of the Paris Commune given by Engels from the point of view of ... “pure democracy”:

Have these gentlemen” (the anti-authoritarians) “ever seen a revolution? A revolution is certainly the most authoritarian thing there is; it is an act whereby one part of the population imposes its will upon the other by means of rifles, bayonets and cannon-all of which are highly authoritarian means. And the victorious party must maintain its rule by means of the terror which its arms inspire in the reactionaries. Would the Paris Commune have lasted more than a day if it had not used the authority of the armed people against the bourgeoisie? Cannot we, on the contrary, blame it for having made too little use of that authority?”

Here is your “pure democracy”! How Engels would have ridiculed the vulgar petty bourgeois, the “Social-Democrat” (in the French sense of the forties and the general European sense of 1915-18), who took it into his head to talk about “pure democracy” in a class-divided society!

But that’s enough. It is impossible to enumerate all Kautsky’s various absurdities, since every phrase he utters is a bottomless pit of apostasy.

Marx and Engels analysed the Paris Commune in a most detailed manner and showed that its merit lay in its attempt to smash, to break up the “ready-made state machinery”. Marx and Engels considered this conclusion to be so important that this was the only amendment they introduced in 1872 into the “obsolete” (in parts) programme of the Communist Manifesto Marx and Engels showed that the Paris Commune had abolished the army and the bureaucracy, had abolished parliamentarism, had destroyed “that parasitic excrescence, the state,” etc. But the sage Kautsky, donning his nightcap, repeats the fairy-tale about “pure democracy,” which has been told a thousand times by liberal professors.

No wonder Rosa Luxemburg declared, 011 August 5, 1915, that German Social-Democracy was a stinking corpse.

( … )

To sum up: Kautsky has in a most unparalleled manner distorted the concept dictatorship of the proletariat, and has turned Marx into a common liberal; that is, he himself has sunk to the level of a liberal who utters banal phrases about “pure democracy,” embellishing and glossing over the class content of bourgeois democracy, and shrinking, above all, from the use of revolutionary violence by the oppressed class. By so “interpreting” the concept “revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat” as to expunge the revolutionary violence of the oppressed class against its oppressors, Kautsky has beaten the world record in the liberal distortion of Marx. The renegade Bernstein has proved to be a more puppy compared with the renegade Kautsky.





Bourgeois and Proletarian Democracy



Kautsky takes from Marxism what is acceptable to the liberals, to the bourgeoisie (the criticism of the Middle Ages, and the progressive historical role of capitalism in general and of capitalist democracy in particular), and discards, passes over in silence, glosses over all that in Marxism which is unacceptable to the bourgeoisie (the revolutionary violence of the proletariat against the bourgeoisie for the latter’s destruction). Thai; is why Kautsky, by virtue of his objective position and irrespective of what his subjective convictions may be, inevitably proves to be a lackey of the bourgeoisie.

( … )

Not only the ancient and feudal, but also “the modern representative state is an instrument of exploitation of wage-labour by capital” (Engels, in his work on the state). “As, therefore, the state is only a transitional institution which is used in the struggle, in the revolution, to hold down one’s adversaries by force, it is sheer nonsense to talk of a ’free people’s state’; so long as the proletariat still needs the state, it does not need it in the interests of freedom but in order to hold down its adversaries, and as soon as it becomes possible to speak of freedom the state as such ceases to exist” (Engels, in his letter to Bebel, March 28, 1875). “In reality, however, the state is nothing but a machine for the oppression of one class by another, and indeed in the democratic republic no less than in the monarchy” (Engels, Introduction to The Cicil War in France by Marx); Universal suffrage is “the gauge of the maturity of the work ing class. It cannot and never will be anything more in the present-day state”. (Engels, in his work on the state.

Mr. Kautsky very tediously chews over the cud in the first part of this proposition, which is acceptable to the bourgeoisie. But the second part, which we have italicised and which is not acceptable to the bourgeoisie, the renegade Kautsky passes over in silence!)The Commune was to be a working, not a parliamentary, body, executive and legislative at the same time .... Instead of deciding once in three or six years which member of the ruling class was to represent and suppress (verund zertreten) the people in Parliament, universal suffrage was to serve the people, constituted in Communes, as individual suffrage serves every other employer in the search for workers, foremen and accountants for his business” (Marx, in his work on the Paris Commune, The Civil War in France).

( … )

Proletarian democracy is a million times more democratic than any bourgeois democracy; Soviet power is a million times more democratic than the most democratic bourgeois republic.

(...)

We must ask the learned Kautsky, the “Marxist” and “socialist” Kautsky:

Can there be equality between the exploited and the exploiters?

It is dreadful, it is incredible that such a question should have to be put in discussing a book written by the ideological leader of the Second International. But “having put your hand to the plough, don’t look back,” and having undertaken to write about Kautsky, I must explain to the learned man why there can be no equality between the exploiter and the exploited.


Can There Be Equality Between the Exploited and the Exploiter?

Kautsky argues as follows:

(1) “The exploiters have always formed only a small minority of the population’ (p. 14 of Kautsky’s pamphlet).

This is indisputably true. Taking this as the starting point, what should be the argument? One may argue in a Marxist, a socialist way. In which case one would proceed from the relation between the exploited and the exploiters. Or one may argue in a liberal, a bourgeois-democratic way. And in that case one would proceed from the relation between the majority and the minority.

If we argue in a Marxist way, we must say: the exploiters inevitably transform the state (and we are speaking of democracy, i.e., one of the forms of the state) into an instrument of the rule of their class, the exploiters, over the exploited. Hence, as long as there are exploiters who rule the majority, the exploited, the democratic state must inevitably be a democracy for the exploiters. A state of the exploited must fundamentally differ from such a state; it must be a democracy for the exploited, ‘and a means of suppressing the exploiters; and the suppression of a class means inequality for that class, its exclusion from “democracy”.

If we argue in a liberal way, we must say: the majority decides, the minority submits. Those who do not submit are punished. That is all. Nothing need be said about the class character of the state in general, or of “pure democracy” in particular, because it is irrelevant; for a majority is a majority and a minority is a minority. A pound of flesh is a pound of flesh, and that is all there is to it.

And this is exactly how Kautsky argues.

(2) “Why should the rule of the proletariat assume, and necessarily assume, a form which is incompatible with democracy?” (P. 21). Then follows a very detailed and a very verbose explanation, backed by a quotation from Marx and the election figures of the Paris Commune, to the effect that the proletariat is in the majority. The conclusion is: “A regime which is so strongly rooted in the people has not the slightest reason for encroaching upon democracy. It cannot always dispense with violence in cases when violence is employed to suppress democracy. Violence can only be met with violence. But a regime which knows that it has popular backing will employ violence only to protect democracy and not to destroy it. It would be simply suicidal if it attempted to do away with its most reliable basis—universal suffrage, that deep source of mighty moral authority” (p. 22).

As you see, the relation between the exploited and the exploiters has vanished in Kautsky’s argument. All that remains is majority in general, minority in general, democracy in general, the “pure democracy” with which we are already familiar.

And all this, mark you, is said apropos of the Paris Commune! To make things clearer I shall quote Marx and Engels to show what they said on the subject of dictatorship apropos of the Paris Commune:

Marx:...When the workers replace the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie by their revolutionary dictatorship ... to break down the resistance of the bourgeoisie ... the workers invest the state with a revolutionary and transitional form ...

Engels:>...And the victorious party” (in a revolution) “must maintain its rule by means of the terror which its arms inspire in the reactionaries. Would the Paris Commune have lasted more than a day if it had not used the authority of the armed people against the bourgeoisie? Cannot we, on the contrary, blame it for having made too little use of that authority?...

Engels:As, therefore, the state is only a transitional institution which is used in the struggle, in the revolution, to hold down one’s adversaries by force, it is sheer nonsense to talk of a ‘free people’s state’; so long as the proletariat still needs the state, it does not need it in the interests of freedom but in order to hold down its adversaries, and as soon as it becomes possible to speak of freedom the state as such ceases to exist ....

Kautsky is as far removed from Marx and Engels as heaven is from earth, as a liberal from a proletarian revolutionary. The pure democracy and simple “democracy” that Kautsky talks about is merely a paraphrase of the “free people’s state”, i.e., sheer nonsense. Kautsky, with the learned air of a most learned armchair fool, or with the innocent air of a ten-year-old schoolgirl, asks: Why do we need a dictatorship when we have a majority? And Marx and Engels explain:

to break down the resistance of the bourgeoisie;

to inspire the reactionaries with fear;

to maintain the authority of the armed people against the bourgeoisie;

that the proletariat may forcibly hold down its adversaries.

Kautsky does not understand these explanations. Infatuated with the “purity” of democracy, blind to its bourgeois character, he “consistently” urges that the majority, since it is the majority, need not “break down the resistance” of the minority, nor “forcibly hold it down”—it is sufficient to suppress casesof infringement of democracy. Infatuated with the “purity” of democracy, Kautsky inadvertently commits the same little error that all bourgeois democrats always commit, namely, he takes formal equality (which is nothing but a fraud and hypocrisy under capitalism) for actual equality! Quite a trifle!

The exploiter and the exploited cannot be equal.

This truth, however unpleasant it may be to Kautsky, nevertheless forms the essence of socialism.

Another truth: there can be no real, actual equality until all possibility of the exploitation of one class by another has been totally destroyed.

The exploiters can be defeated at one stroke in the event of a successful uprising at the centre, or of a revolt in the army. But except in very rare and special cases, the exploiters cannot be destroyed at one stroke. It is impossible to expropriate all the landowners and capitalists of any big country at one stroke. Furthermore, expropriation alone, as a legal or political act, does not settle the matter by a long chalk, because it is necessary to depose the landowners and capitalists in actual fact, to replace their management of the factories and estates by a different management, workers’ management, in actual fact. There can be no equality between the exploiters—who for many generations have been better off because of their education, conditions of wealthy life, and habits—and the exploited, the majority of whom even in the most advanced and most democratic bourgeois republics are downtrodden, backward, ignorant, intimidated and disunited. For a long time after the revolution the exploiters inevitably continue to retain a number of great practical advantages: they still have money (since it is impossible to abolish money all at once); some movable property—often fairly considerable; they still have various connections, habits of organisation and management; knowledge of all the “secrets” (customs, methods, means and possibilities) of management; superior education; close connections with the higher technical personnel (who live arid think like the bourgeoisie); incomparably greater experience in the art of war (this is very important), and so on and so forth.

If the exploiters are defeated in one country only—and this, of course, is typical, since a simultaneous revolution in a number of countries is a rare exception—they still remain stronger than the exploited, for the international connections of the exploiters are enormous. That a section of the exploited from the least advanced middle-peasant, artisan and similar groups of the population may, and indeed does, follow the exploiters has been proved by all revolutions, including the Commune (for there were also proletarians among the Versailles troops, which the most learned Kautsky has “forgotten”).

In these circumstances, to assume that in a revolution which is at all profound and serious the issue is decided simply by the relation between the majority and the minority is the acme of stupidity, the silliest prejudice of a common liberal, an attempt to deceive the people by concealing from them a well-establislied historical truth. This historical truth is that in every profound revolution, the prolonged, stubborn and desperate resistance o the exploiters, who for a number of years retain important practical advantages over the exploited, is the rule. Never—except in the sentimental fantasies of the sentimental fool Kautsky—will the exploiters submit to the decision of the exploited majority without trying to make use of their advantages in a last desperate battle, or series of battles.

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. After their first serious defeat, the overthrown exploiters—who had not expected their overthrow, never believed it possible, never conceded the thought of it—throw themselves with energy grown tenfold, with furious passion and hatred grown a hundredfold, into the battle for the recovery of the “paradise”, of which they were deprived, on behalf of their families, who had been leading such a sweet and easy life and whom now the “common herd” is condemning to ruin and destitution (or to “common” labour...). In the train of the capitalist exploiters follow the wide sections of the petty bourgeoisie, with regard to whom decades of historical experience of all countries testify that they vacillate and hesitate, one day marching behind the proletariat and the next day taking fright at the difficulties of the revolution; that they become panic-stricken at the first defeat or semidefeat of the workers, grow nervous, run about aimlessly, snivel, and rush from one camp into the other—just like our Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries.

In these circumstances, in an epoch of desperately acute war, when history presents the question of whether age-old and thousand-year-old privileges are to be or not to be at such a time to talk about majority and minority, about pure democracy, about dictatorship being unnecessary and about equality between the exploiter and the exploited! What infinite stupidity and abysmal philistinism are needed for this!

However, during the decades of comparatively “peaceful” capitalism between 1871 and 1914, the Augean stables of phihistinism, imbecility, and apostasy accumulated in the socialist parties which were adapting themselves to opportunism ....

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*

The reader will probably have noticed that Kautsky, in the passage from his pamphlet quoted above, speaks of an attempt to encroach upon universal suffrage (calling it, by the way, a deep source of mighty moral authority, whereas Engels, apropos of the same Paris Commune and the same question of dictatorship, spoke of the authority of the armed people against the bourgeoisie—a very characteristic difference between the philistine’s and the revolutionary’s views on “authority”...).

It should be observed that the question of depriving the exploiters of the franchise is a purely Russian question, and not a question of the dictatorship of the proletariat in general. Had Kautsky, casting aside hypocrisy, entitled his pamphlet Against the Bolsheviks, the title would have corresponded to the contents of the pamphlet, and Kautsky would have been justified in speaking bluntly about the franchise. But Kautsky wanted to come out primarily as a “theoretician”.He called his pamphlet The Dictatorship of the Proletariat—in general. He speaks about the Soviets and about Russia specifically only in the second part of the pamphlet, beginning with the sixth paragraph. The subject dealt with in the first part (from which I took the quotation) is democracy and dictatorship in general. In speaking about the franchise, Kautsky betrayed himself as an opponent of the Bolsheviks, who does not care a brass farthing for theory. For theory, i.e., the reasoning about the general (and not the nationally specific) class foundations of democracy and dictatorship, ought to deal not with a special question, such as the franchise, but with the general question of whether democracy can be preserved for the rich, for the exploiters in the historical period of the overthrow of the exploiters and the replacement of their state by the state of the exploited.

That is the way, the only way, a theoretician can present the question.

We know the example of the Paris Commune, we know all that was said by the founders of Marxism in connection with it and in reference to it. On the basis of this material I examined, for instance, the question of democracy and dictatorship in my pamphlet, The State and Revolution, written before the October Revolution. I did not say anything at all about restricting the franchise. And it must be said now that the question of restricting the franchise is a nationally specific and not a general question of the dictatorship. One must approach the question of restricting the franchise by studying the specific conditions of the Russian revolution and the specific path of its development. This will be done later on in this pamphlet. It would be a mistake, however, to guarantee in advance that the impending proletarian revolutions in Europe will all, or the majority of them, be necessarily accompanied by restriction of the franchise for the bourgeoisie. It may be so. After the war and the experience of the Russian revolution it probably will be so; but it is not absolutely necessary for the exercise of the dictatorship, it is not an indispensable characteristic of the logical concept “dictatorship”, it does not enter as an indispensable condition in the historical and class concept “dictatorship”.

The indispensable characteristic, the necessary condition of dictatorship is the forcible suppression of the exploiters as a class, and, consequently, the infringement of “pure democracy”, i.e., of equality and freedom, in regard to that class.

This is the way, the only way, the question can be put theoretically. And by failing to put the question thus, Kautsky has shown that he opposes the Bolsheviks not as a theoretician, but as a sycophant of the opportunists and the bourgeoisie.

In which countries, and given what national features of capitalism, democracy for the exploiters will be in one or another form restricted (wholly or in part), infringed upon, is a question of the specific national features of this or that capitalism, of this or that revolution. The theoretical question is different: Is the dictatorship of the proletariat possible without infringing democracy in relation to the exploiting class?

It is precisely this question, the only theoretically important and essential one, that Kautsky has evaded. He has quoted all sorts of passages from Marx and Engels, except those which bear on this question, and which I quoted above.

Kautsky talks about anything you like, about everything that is acceptable to liberals and bourgeois democrats and does not go beyond their circle of ideas, but he does not talk about the main thing, namely, the fact that the proletariat cannot achieve victory without breaking the resistance of the bourgeoisie, without forcibly suppressing its adversaries, and that, where there is “forcible suppression”, where there is no “freedom”, there is, of course, no democracy

This Kautsky has not understood.

The Soviets Dare Not Become State Organisations

The Soviets are the Russian form of the proletarian dictatorship. If a Marxist theoretician, writing a work on the dictatorship of the proletariat, had really studied the subject (and not merely repeated the petty-bourgeois lamentations against dictatorship, as Kautsky did, singing to Menshevik tunes), he would first have given a general definition of dictatorship, and would then have examined its peculiar, national, form, the Soviets; he would have given his critique of them as one of the forms of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

(...)

Kautsky either rejects the assumption of state power by the working class altogether, or he concedes that the working class may take over the old, bourgeois state machine. But he will by no means concede that it must break it up, smash it, and replace it by a new, proletarian machine. Whichever way Kautsky’s arguments are “interpreted”, or “explained”, his rupture with Marxism and his desertion to the bourgeoisie are obvious.

Back in the Communist Manifesto, describing what sort of state the victorious working class needs, Marx wrote: “the state, i.e., the proletariat organised as the ruling class.”[17] Now we have a man who claims still to be a Marxist coming forward and declaring that the proletariat, fully organised and waging the “decisive battle” against capital, must not transform its class organisation into a state organisation. Here Kautsky has betrayed that “superstitious belief in the state” which in Germany, as Engels wrote in 1891, “has been carried over into the general thinking of the bourgeoisie and even of many workers”.”Workers, fight!—our philistine “agrees” to this (as every bourgeois “agrees”, since the workers are fighting all the same, and the only tiling to do is to devise means of blunting the edge of their sword)—fight, but don’t dare win! Don’t destroy the state machine of the bourgeoisie, don’t replace the bourgeois “state organisation” by the proletarian “state organisation”!

Whoever sincerely shared the Marxist view that the state is nothing but a machine for the suppression of one class by another, and who has at all reflected upon this truth, could never have reached the absurd conclusion that the proletarian organisations capable of defeating finance capital must not transform themselves into state organisations. It was this point that betrayed the petty bourgeois who believes that “after all is said and done” the state is something outside classes or above classes. Indeed, why should the proletariat, one class”, be permitted to wage unremitting war on capital, which rules not only over the proletariat, but over the whole people, over the whole petty bourgeoisie, over all the peasants, yet this proletariat, this one class”, is not to be permitted to transform its organisation into a state organisation? Because the petty bourgeois is afraid of the class struggle, and does not carry it to its logical conclusion, to its main object.

Kautsky has got himself completely mixed up and has given himself away entirely. Mark you, he himself admits that Europe is heading for decisive battles between capital and labour, and that the old methods of economic and political struggle of the proletariat are inadequate. But these old methods were precisely the utilisation of bourgeois democracy. It therefore follows...?

But Kautsky is afraid to think of what follows.

...It therefore follows that only a reactionary, an enemy of the working class, a henchman of the bourgeoisie, can now turn his face to the obsolete past, paint the charms of bourgeois democracy and babble about pure democracy. Bourgeois democracy was progressive compared with medicvalism, and it had to be utilised. But now it is not sufficient for the working class. Now we must look forward instead of backward—to replacing the bourgeois democracy by proletarian democracy. And while the preparatory work for the proletarian revolution, the formation and training of the proletarian army were possible (and necessary) within the framework of the bourgeois-democratic state, now that we have reached the stage of “decisive battles”, to confine the proletariat to this framework means betraying the cause of the proletariat, means being a renegade.

Kautsky has made himself particularly ridiculous by repeating Martov’s argument without noticing that in Martoy’s case this argument was based on another argument which he, Kautsky, does not use! Martov said (and Kautsky repeats after him) that Russia is not yet ripe for socialism; from which it logically follows that it is too early to transform the Soviets from organs of struggle into state organisations (read: it is timely to transform the Soviets, with the assistance of the Menshevik leaders, into instruments for subjecting the workers to the imperialist bourgeoisie). Kautsky, however, cannot say outright that Europe is not ripe for socialism. In 1909, when he was not yet a renegade, he wrote that there was then no reason to fear a premature revolution, that whoever had renounced revolution for fear of defeat would have been a traitor. Kautsky does not dare renounce this outright. And so we get an absurdity, which completely reveals the stupidity and cowardice of the petty bourgeois: on the one hand, Europe is ripe for socialism and is heading towards decisive battles between capital and labour; but, on the other hand, the combat organisation (i.e., the organisation which arises, grows and gains strength in combat), the organisation of the proletariat, the vanguard and organiser, the leader of the oppressed, must not be transformed into a state organisation



The Constituent Assembly And The Soviet Republic

(...)

The second thesis reads as follows:

While demanding the convocation of a Constituent Assembly, revolutionary Social-Democracy has ever since the beginning of the revolution of 1917 repeatedly emphasised that a republic of Soviets is a higher form of democracy that the usual bourgeois republic with a Constituent Assembly. (my italics).

In order to represent the Bolsheviks as unprincipled people, as “revolutionary opportunists” (this is a term which Kautsky employs somewhere in his book, I forget in which connection), Mr. Kautsky has concealed from his German readers the fact that#8212;the theses contain a direct reference to “repeated” declarations!

These are the petty, miserable and contemptible methods Mr. Kautsky employs! That is the way he has evaded the theoretical question.

Is it true or not that the bourgeois-democratic parliamentary republic is inferior to the republic of the Paris Commune or Soviet type? This is the whole point, and Kautsky has evaded it. Kautsky has “forgotten” all that Marx said in his analysis of the Paris Commune. He has also “forgotten” Engels’s letter to Bebel of March 28, 1875, in which this same idea of Marx is formulated in a particularly lucid and comprehensible fashion: The Commune was no longer a state in the proper sense of the word.”

Here is the most prominent theoretician of the Second International, in a special pamphlet on The Dictatorship of the Proletariat, specially dealing with Russia, where the question of a form of state that is higher than a democratic bourgeois republic has been raised directly and repeatedly, ignoring this very question. In what way does this differ in fact from desertion to the bourgeois camp?

(...)

November 10, 1918



First Congress of the Communist International

(Lenin, Volume 28, pp 459-460)


          5. The Paris Commune - to which all who parade as Socialists pay lip service (for they know that the workers ardently and sincerely sympathize with though Commune) —showed very clearly the historically conventional nature and limited value of the bourgeois parliamentary system and bourgeois democracy; institutions which, though highly progressive compared with medieval times, inevitably require a radical alteration in the era of proletarian revolution. It was Marx who best appraised the historical significance of the Commune. In his analysis, he revealed the exploiting nature of bourgeois democracy in the bourgeois parliamentary system under which the oppressed classes enjoy the right to decide once in several years which representative of the propertied classes shall “represent and suppress” ( ver- und zertreten ) the people in parliament. And it is now, when the Soviet movement is embracing the entire world and continuing the work of the Commune for all to see, that the traitors to socialism are forgetting the concrete experience and concrete lessons of the Paris Commune and repeating the old bourgeois rubbish about “democracy in general”. The Commune was not a parliamentary institution.


6. The significance of the commune, furthermore, lies in the fact that it endeavored to crush, to smash to its very foundations, the bourgeois state apparatus, the bureaucratic, judicial, military and police machine, and to replace it by a self-governing, mass workers’ organization in which there was no division between legislative and executive power. All contemporary bourgeois-democratic republic’s, including the German republic—which the traitors to socialism, in mockery of the truth, describe as a proletarian republic—retain this state apparatus. We therefore again get quite clear confirmation of the point that shouting in defense of “democracy in general” is actually defense of the bourgeoisie and their privileges as exploiters.

7. “Freedom of assembly” can be taken as a sample of the requisites of “pure democracy”. Every class conscience worker who has not broken with his class will readily appreciate the absurdity of promising freedom of assembly to the exploiters at a time and in a situation when the exploiters are resisting the overthrow of their rule and are fighting to retain their privileges. When the bourgeoisie were revolutionary, they did not, neither in England in 1649 nor in France in 1793, grant “freedom of assembly” to the monarchists and nobles, who summoned foreign troops and “assembled” to organize attempts at restoration. If the present day bourgeoisie, who have long since become reactionary, demand from proletariat advance guarantees of “freedom of assembly” for the exploiters, whatever the resistance offered by the capitalists to being expropriated, the workers will only laugh at their hypocrisy.

The workers know perfectly well, too, that even in the most democratic bourgeois republic “freedom of assembly” is a hollow phrase, for the rich have the best public and private buildings at their disposal, and enough leisure to assemble at meetings, which are protected by the bourgeois machine of power. The rural and urban workers and small peasants—the overwhelming majority of the population—are denied all these things. As long as that state of affairs prevails, “equality", i.e., “pure democracy", is a fraud. The first thing to do to win genuine equality and enable the working people to enjoy democracy in practice is to deprive the exploiters of all the public and sumptuous private buildings, to give to the working people leisure and to see to it that their freedom of assembly is protected by armed workers, not by heirs of the nobility or capitalist officers in command of downtrodden soldiers.

Only when that change is affected can we speak of freedom of assembly and of equality without mocking at the workers, at working people in general, at the poor. And this change can be affected only by the vanguard of the working people, the proletariat, which overthrows the exploiters, the bourgeoisie.