Political Sociology: A Reader

By S. N. Eisenstadt | Go to book overview

55
The State and Revolution

V. I. Lenin


The Transition from Capitalism to
Communism

"Between capitalist and communist society, [Marx continues] there lies a period of revolutionary transformation from the former to the latter. A stage of political transition corresponds to this period, and the State during this period can be no other than the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat."

This conclusion Marx bases on an analysis of the role played by the proletariat in modern capitalist society, on the facts of the development of this society and on the irreconcilability of the antagonistic interests of the proletarian and the capitalist class.

Earlier the question was put thus: To attain its emancipation the proletariat must overthrow the capitalist class, conquer political power and establish its own revolutionary dictatorship. Now the question is put somewhat differently: The transition from capitalist society developing towards Communism, to a Communist Society, is impossible without a period of "political transition," and the State in this period can only be the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat.

What, then, is the relation of this dictatorship to democracy?

We saw that The Communist Manifesto simply places side by side the two ideas: the "conversion of the proletariat into the ruling class" and the "conquest of Democracy." On the basis of all that has been said above, one can define more exactly how democracy changes in the transition of Capitalism to Communism.

In capitalist society, under the conditions most favourable to its development, we have a more or less complete democracy in the form of a democratic republic. But this democracy is always bound by the narrow framework of capitalist exploitation, and, consequently, always remains, in reality, a democracy only for the minority, only for the possess‐

ing classes, only for the rich. Freedom in capitalist society always remains more or less the same as it was in the ancient Greek republics, that is freedom for the slave owners. The modern wage-slaves, in virtue of the conditions of capitalist exploitation, remain to such an extent crushed by want and poverty that they "cannot be bothered with democracy," have "no time for politics"; that, in the ordinary peaceful course of events, the majority of the population is debarred from participating in public political life.

The accuracy of this statement is perhaps most clearly proved by Germany, just because in this State constitutional legality has lasted and remained stable for a remarkably long time—for nearly half a century (1871-1914); and the Social-Democracy during this time has been able, far better than has been the case in other countries, to make use of "legality" in order to organise into a political party a larger proportion of the working class than has occurred anywhere else in the world.

What, then, is this highest proportion of politically conscious and active wage-slaves that has so far been observed in capitalist society? One million members of the Social-Democratic Party out of fifteen millions of wage-workers! Three millions industrially organised out of fifteen millions!

Democracy for an insignificant minority, democracy for the rich—that is the democracy of capitalist society. If we look more closely into the mechanism of capitalist democracy, everywhere—in the so‐ called "petty" details of the suffrage (the residential qualification, the exclusion of women, etc.), in the technique of the representative institutions, in the actual obstacles to the right of meeting (public buildings are not for the "poor"), in the purely capitalist organisation of the daily press, etc., etc.— on all sides we shall see restrictions upon restrictions of Democracy. These restrictions, exceptions, exclusions, obstacles for the poor, seem slight— especially in the eyes of one who has himself never known want, and has never lived in close contact with the oppressed classes in their herd life, and

____________________
From V. I. Lenin, The State and Revolution (London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd., 1919), pp. 88-94. Reprinted by permission of the publisher.

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