Socialism, Democracy and State

Manas Sarkar

In discussions on socialist revolution and democracy of this phase, subjects like multi-party rule, universal suffrage, elected "bureaucracy" and " police", right to recall of elected representatives, along with abolition of the standing army and its replacement by armed people, are usually referred to. Indeed, socialist democracy under the dictatorship of the proletariat can survive only if this dictatorship is set up and is able to sustain itself. This democracy is qualitatively different from all the democracies known so far. This democracy is expected to create an environment favourable to the all-round development of the broad masses of the people including the industrial working class and the rural poor (who do not appropriate others' labour), the flowering of their creativity, transformation of the working class and other producing, oppressed classes into controlling classes and establishment of unhindered democracy, thus ushering in a realm of human freedom.

Even when the main pillars of capitalism are destroyed in the towns and villages through the new democratic revolution, the possibilities of restoration of capitalism remain and the elements of capitalist development continue to function. Innumerable small producers continue to exist. On the other hand, the money power and social relations of the deposed large capitalists and landowners are not wiped out and they continue to survive as appendages to international capital. Various backward ideas and ideologies continue to exercise their influence. Under these circumstances, the deposed bourgeoisie persist, with efforts intensified hundred and thousand times, in their ambition for restoring capitalism. They did it in Russia and China, and succeeded in the upshot.

Did 'socialism' established in China lead to the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat? Was it possible to introduce in Russia or China, multi-party democracy, universal suffrage, multi-layered autonomy under the existing state machinery in the phase of socialist transition, and was it possible to advance this transition towards communism through the economic policies adopted by Lenin and Mao or through the various economic measures suggested by others?

In the opinion of this writer, in Russia and China, there was in force the rule of the communist party instead of the dictatorship of the proletariat. Marx, Engels and Lenin had never said that dictatorship of the proletariat and rule of the communist party were synonymous. Secondly, the state machinery that was required for the exercise of the dictatorship of the proletariat was absent there. Here the most important requirement was the abolition of the standing army( of any kind) and its replacement by armed people. This was one of the fundamental lessons of Marxism. This lesson, i.e. the very basis of the Paris Commune was not put into practice and steps were not taken for the withering away of the different organs of the state. In other words, the specific steps for using the democratic environment in favour of the dictatorship of the proletariat. Thus from the very beginning, the principal conditions for the establishment or practice of the dictatorship of the proletariat were not obeyed in practice.

In new-born socialism, where forces of communism are weak and elements of capitaist restoration are very much there, the practice of building what Lenin called 'state or non-state ', namely the abolition of the standing army and the process of withering away of the other organs of the old state, was to start from the very beginning. But during the phase of socialist transition in Russia and China, the form of the state was of the old pattern. And the very nature of this state machinery enabled the capitalist roaders to restore capitalism without much of a change in this state machinery and they could use that machinery for restoring capitalism. One important lesson of the Paris Commune was that in a country, once the dictatorship of the proletariat (not the rule of a single communist party) and a state under the dictatorship of the proletariat are established, it is not possible to restore capitalism there without a bloody counter-revolutionary armed uprising. The basic reason why the restoration of capitalism in Russia or China was accomplished in a relatively peaceful manner was the existence of the dictatorship of the communist party, which was by no means synonymous with the dictatorship of the proletariat. This was coupled with the absence of what Marx, Engels and Lenin meant as the state under the dictatorship of the proletariat. Just as a bourgeois dictatorship cannot be imagined without a bourgeois state machinery, the dictatorship of the proletariat cannot be conceived of without a state that is qualitatively different and of which Lenin said that it did not appear like a state at all, a state whose basis is armed people. And the proletariat maintains its authority with the help of such a state machinery. Marx, while speaking of this state, called it 'the state or the proletariat organised as the ruling class'. Lenin says 'Nobody can encroach upon this authority of the proletariat which is dependent on the armed power of the people. ...The overthrow of the bouergeoisie can be achieved only by the proletariat becoming the ruling class capable of crushing the inevitable and desperate resistance of the bourgeoisie, and of organising all the working and exploited people for the new economic system'. The form of state machinery that people have witnessed in ' socialist' Russia and China until the restoration of capitalism was adverse to the dictatorship of the proletariat( when it was established). The state was managed by the central committee, polit bureau, or sometimes, a small clique. The democracy that existed was of a limited nature, not superior to bourgeois democracy. The meaning of democracy under the dictatorship of the proletariat was not democracy for all, not democracy for a handful of exploiters, but a democracy meant for the suppression of the latter. Engels has said "...So long as the proletariat 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." Under the order that came to reign in China and Russia, even if a muti-party system, universal suffrage and multi-layered autonomy were introduced, socialist transition could not advance very far. Lenin and Mao took a bunch of economically positive measures under this system, but that could not prevent the restoration of capitalism. Well, for widening and deepening the impact of the cultural revolution initiated by Mao to mobilise the party members and masses against the capitalist readers within the party and the society, and for continuously taking the socialist revolution to communism, what was necessary was a state system of the type adopted by the comrades of the Paris Commune, a system that could generate a democratic environment for continuously widening and deepening the cultural revolution. But owing to the absence of this system in China the Cultural Revolution failed to sustain itself continuously and to make a far-reaching impact. In China, with the death of Mao, Zhou En-lai, Zu Teh, Dung Pi Yu in the same year, their authority over the communist party came to an end and the capitalist roaders inside the party, who had already been a majority in important positions in many cases, seized the chance to lead the party to the capitalist road. In the Russian case too, after the death of Lenin and Stalin, the capitalist roaders inside the party took the country to the capitalist road. But how could it happen that immediately after the disappearance of the authority of Lenin or Stalin or Mao, capitalism could be restored? And it is also difficult to swallow the idea that the rule of the communist party was the dictatorship of the proletariat when, according to the information provided by William Hinton in 1972, two thirds of the politburo, half of the central committee and three fourths of the various provincial committee members were believers in Confucian philosophy. Marx-Engels-Lenin never equated the dictatorship of the proletariat with the rule of the communist party in their writings.

The reason why capitalism could be restored in Russia and China was the absence of a system that could have forestalled such an easy restoration without a bloody counterrevolution, a counterrevolution that took place after the Paris Commune was set up. It appears that lack of reliance on the working class in carrying forward the socialist revolution was worked from within, consciously or unconsciously.

Lenin said "If the proletariat rules centrally, if it takes over the reigns of power centrally the rest will follow on its own". But power in China or Russia, was centralised in the hands of the central committee, politburo or, in many cases, a small coterie. This can by no means be called dictatorship of the proletariat. In China and Russia, the condition of the working class was like a chieftain without effective power.

Vol. 50, No.32, Feb 11 - 17, 2018