Dictatorship of the proletariat

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In Marxism, the dictatorship of the proletariat denotes the transitional socialist state between the capitalist class society and the classless communist society. During the transition, the State can be nothing but the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat,[1] The term dictatorship normally refers to the Classical Roman dictatura concept — republican and constitutional with absolute power, while Marx's dictatorship of proletariat is revolutionary government with majority (proletarian) support which wields absolute power to replace the incumbent capitalist economic system and its socio-political supports, i.e. the “dictatorship of the bourgeoisie."


Marx and Engels

On 1 January 1852, the journalist Joseph Weydemeyer published the “Dictatorship of the Proletariat” article in The New York Times newspaper. In that year, Karl Marx wrote to him, saying:

In context, dictatorship denotes the political control (government) by a social class, not by a man (dictator rei gerendae causa); likewise, being a system of class rule, the bourgeois State is a “dictatorship of the bourgeoisie”. When the workers (the proletariat) assume State power, they become the (new) ruling class, and rule in their own interests, temporarily using the State’s institution in preventing a bourgeois counterrevolution.

Karl Marx did not detail the implementation of the dictatorship of the proletariat, yet indicated the Paris Commune (March–May 1871) as a model of the transition to Communism:

This form of popular government, featuring revocable election of councilors and maximal public participation in governance, resembles contemporary direct democracy.

In the 1891 postscript to The Civil War in France (1872) pamphlet, Friedrich Engels said: “Well and good, gentlemen, do you want to know what this dictatorship looks like? Look at the Paris Commune. That was the Dictatorship of the Proletariat”; to avoid bourgeois political corruption, “the Commune made use of two infallible expedients. In this first place, it filled all posts — administrative, judicial, and educational — by election on the basis of universal suffrage of all concerned, with the right of the same electors to recall their delegate at any time. And, in the second place, all officials, high or low, were paid only the wages received by other workers. The highest salary paid by the Commune to anyone was 6,000 francs. In this way an effective barrier to place-hunting and careerism was set up, even apart from the binding mandates to delegates [and] to representative bodies, which were also added in profusion”; moreover noting that the State is “at best, an evil inherited by the proletariat after its victorious struggle for class supremacy, whose worst sides the proletariat, just like the Commune, cannot avoid having to lop off at the earliest possible moment, until such time as a new generation, reared in new and free social conditions, will be able to throw the entire lumber of the State on the scrap-heap”.[5] Marx’s attention to the Paris Commune placed the commune in the centre of later Marxist forms.

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