From La Forge
Central Organ of the Communist Party of the Workers of France
Eighty years ago, on November 7, 1917, October 25 in the Russian calendar of that period, the workers and the popular masses of Russia, led by their party, the Bolshevik party,(*) seized power in the course of an armed insurrection.
In the course of this revolution, they overthrew the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie and replaced it with the dictatorship of the proletariat, that is the power of the majority, the exploited and oppressed classes, over a minority of exploiters. This experience of a socialist state continued until the 1950s. While the imperialist powers of the whole world, allied with reaction, did all in their power to overthrow the Soviet regime, creating enormous difficulties for it, it was finally internally, with the seizure of power of a new bourgeoisie, that socialism was defeated.
It is this experience that our party has begun to study in order to understand it in depth and to be able to draw lessons for the revolutionary struggle at home as well as on the international level.
The first elements of this work have been published in March 1996 under the title: "Contribution to an Assessment of Socialism in the USSR."
We would like to stress, on the occasion of the anniversary of the insurrection which lives on in history under the name of the "October Revolution," certain aspects which seen to us important today in the stage in which we find ourselves of our struggle against capitalism. The Commune, the first attempt of the proletariat to establish itself as the ruling class (an experience which only lasted several weeks), was an experience of paramount importance that permitted Marx to draw lessons that were invaluable to the Bolsheviks and to the Russian workers 40 years later. In the same way the experience of the socialist revolution in Russia has much to teach us 80 years later. Indeed, even if the conditions of imperialist oppression and capitalist exploitation and their forms have changed - and sometimes even changes profoundly since the beginning of the century - the very existence of the capitalist-imperialist system based on the exploitation of labor power makes the question of a revolutionary change of society still relevant.
- A revolutionary change because every attempt to reform this system, to improve it, is doomed to failure. And this lesson is also drawn from experience, in particular that of France from 1981 to 1985.
- A revolutionary change can not take place unless conditions have matured, that is to say when "those at the top are no longer able to rule as before and when those on the bottom can not take it any more." It is also necessary, for the insurrection to be victorious, that it take place in particular circumstances favorable to the proletariat.
A sign of maturity includes the consciousness acquired by the working class of its role, and in particular of the necessity for it to resort to revolutionary violence against the bourgeois state. This consciousness arises from the experience of the nature of the bourgeois state. The acquisition of this consciousness can not be the result of a spontaneous process, but the result of the work waged by all the conscious elements, and in particular the party. On this fundamental point of Marxist-Leninist theory on the state, we reproduce the following excerpt of the document "Contribution to an Assessment of Socialism in the USSR." This excerpt was part of chapter 10, titled "What is a Socialist State? A re-examination of the Marxist theses on the state, the revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat." It is followed by chapters 11 and 12 which are an account of what historically was the Russian Revolution and the Soviet Republic.
We would like to encourage our readers to read and to have others around them read this document.(*) At the time the Social-Democratic Party (Bolshevik) of Russia, which soon became the Communist Party (Bolshevik)
The state has never been fundamentally other than a "bludgeon"(1) in the hands of the ruling class, "a machine for holding in obedience to one class other, subordinated classes."(2) It emerges as "a power seemingly standing above society."(3) Engels explained this by the fact that it is always the state of the class which, at its time, represents itself as the whole society: in Antiquity, the state of the citizens who owned slaves, in the Middle Ages of the feudal nobility, in our epoch of the bourgeoisie. This is the paradox of the state: it claims to be the official representative of the whole society and it concretizes itself as a "special detachment," a group of people disposing of public force, engaged "solely, or almost solely, in ruling,"(4) as a parasitic body raised above society:
"The state... is a product of society at a certain stage of development; it is the admission that this society has become entangled in an insoluble contradiction with itself, that it has split into irreconcilable opposites which it is powerless to dispel. But in order that these opposites, classes with conflicting economic interests, might not consume themselves and society in fruitless struggle, it became necessary to have a power seemingly standing above society which would alleviate the conflict and keep it within the bounds of 'order;' and this power, having arisen out of society but placing itself above it, and alienating itself more and more from it, is the state."(5)
The state has as its role to moderate conflicts between classes, to maintain them within limits that do not challenge the general order of society, the relations of production which are at its base. All the conflicts are not settled by direct violent confrontation. The majority of the time, they are resolved by "law." This law, which is said to be "equal for all," is never anything but the outcome of a relation of initial force, the juridical reflection of an equilibrium which exists at a given moment between the class forces of society. Favorable in a general fashion to the class which rules economically, it can be more or less democratic according to the force of the workers' and popular movement, but never above classes, never neutral and impartial!
The governments which impose taxes, dispose of the public force, set up the infrastructure and organize the general conditions of production (labor legislation, social protection of the labor force...) can rely on the laws voted in parliament, on a large-scale integration of the middle strata, on the participation of the population (elections, referenda...). They can however also rely on open terrorist violence, ignoring parliament and bourgeois legality: when the state is in the hands of the "most reactionary, most chauvinistic and most imperialist elements of finance capital."(6) In the one case as well as the other, fascism or bourgeois democracy, the bourgeois state still remains a "dictatorship" of capital, that is to say a political organization which, within a given territory, assures the unmitigated domination of capital over society.
This is why Lenin criticized so violently what he called "constitutional illusions."(7)
"The reason why the omnipotence of 'wealth' is more certain in a democratic republic is that it does not depend on individual defects in the political machinery or on the faulty political shell of capitalism. A democratic republic is the best possible political shell for capitalism, and, therefore, once capital has gained possession of this very best shell (through the Palchinskys, Chernovs, Tseretelis and Co.), it establishes its power so securely, so firmly, that no change of persons, institutions or parties in the bourgeois-democratic republic can shake it.
"We must also note that Engels is most explicit in calling universal suffrage an instrument of bourgeois rule. Universal suffrage, he says, obviously taking account of the long experience of German Social-Democracy, is: 'the gauge of the maturity of the working class. It cannot and never will be anything more in the present-day state.'
"The petty-bourgeois democrats, such as our Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks, and also their twin brothers, all the social-chauvinists and opportunists of Western Europe, expect just this 'more' from universal suffrage. They themselves share, and instill into the minds of the people, the false notion that universal suffrage 'in the present-day state' is really capable of revealing the will of the majority of the working people and of securing its realization."(8)
[All references are to the English editions - Translator]
(1) Lenin, The State, in Collected Works, vol. 29, p. 488
(2) Ibid., p. 480
(3) Engels, The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State, Chapter IX, Barbarism and Civilisation, in Marx/Engels Collected Works, vol. 26, p. 269
(4) Lenin, The State, in Collected Works, vol. 29, p. 477
(5) Engels, The Origin of the Family..., p. 269
(6) Dimitrov's Report before the Seventh World Congress of the Communist International, included in Selected Works, Sofia Press, 1972, vol. 2, p. 8
(7) See Lenin, Constitutional Illusions, in Collected Works, vol. 25, p. 196ff
(8) Lenin, The State and Revolution, in Collected Works, vol. 25, p. 398-399Click here to return to France Index