Workers Vanguard No. 935

24 April 2009


Lenin on the Dictatorship of the Bourgeoisie

(Quote of the Week)

V.I. Lenin, the leader of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution that brought the working class of Russia to power, explained how bourgeois democracy serves as a mask for the capitalist class’ bloody dictatorship, enforced by its courts, cops and military forces. At the founding congress of the Third (Communist) International, Lenin presented theses defending Soviet rule against the reformist leaders of the Second International, most of whom had sided with their own bourgeoisies in the imperialist slaughter of World War I.

The bourgeoisie and their agents in the workers’ organisations are making desperate attempts to find ideological and political arguments in defence of the rule of the exploiters. Condemnation of dictatorship and defence of democracy are particularly prominent among these arguments….

Firstly, this argument employs the concepts of “democracy in general” and “dictatorship in general,” without posing the question of the class concerned. This non-class or above-class presentation, which supposedly is popular, is an outright travesty of the basic tenet of socialism, namely, its theory of class struggle, which socialists who have sided with the bourgeoisie recognise in words but disregard in practice. For in no civilised capitalist country does “democracy in general” exist; all that exists is bourgeois democracy, and it is not a question of “dictatorship in general,” but of the dictatorship of the oppressed class, i.e., the proletariat, over its oppressors and exploiters, i.e., the bourgeoisie, in order to overcome the resistance offered by the exploiters in their fight to maintain their domination....

The Paris Commune...showed very clearly the historically conventional nature and limited value of the bourgeois parliamentary system and bourgeois democracy.... It was Marx who best appraised the historical significance of the Commune. In his analysis, he revealed the exploiting nature of bourgeois democracy and 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....

The significance of the Commune, furthermore, lies in the fact that it endeavoured 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’ organisation in which there was no division between legislative and executive power.

—V.I. Lenin, “Theses and Report on Bourgeois Democracy and the
Dictatorship of the Proletariat” (March 1919)