[This article is reprinted from Peking Review, #20, May 16, 1975, pp. 10-12.]
THROUGHOUT his long years of struggle against the revisionism of the Second International, Lenin upheld, defended and developed the Marxist theory of the dictatorship of the proletariat. He explicitly pointed out: “Those who recognize only the class struggle are not yet Marxists; they may be found to be still within the boundaries of bourgeois thinking and bourgeois politics. To confine Marxism to the doctrine of the class struggle means curtailing Marxism, distorting it, reducing it to something which is acceptable to the bourgeoisie. Only he is a Marxist who extends the recognition of the class struggle to the recognition of the dictatorship of the proletariat. This is what constitutes the most profound difference between the Marxist and the ordinary petty (as well as big) bourgeois. This is the touchstone on which the real understanding and recognition of Marxism is to be tested.” (The State and Revolution.) When studying Chairman Mao’s important instruction on the question of theory, we must conscientiously study this teaching of Lenin’s and do a better job of carrying on the movement to criticize Lin Piao and Confucius, so as to combat and prevent revisionism, consolidate the dictatorship of the proletariat and prevent capitalist restoration.
The theory of class struggle, Lenin pointed out, had been founded by the bourgeoisie before Marx. Long before Marxism came into being, bourgeois historians had described the historical development of class struggle and bourgeois economists had made an economic analysis of classes. In the early 19th century, bourgeois historians Thierry, Mignet, Guizot and Thiers of the restoration period in France had made it clear in their works on history that the English revolution in the 17th century and the French revolution in the 18th century were class struggles waged by the bourgeoisie against the feudal aristocracy. Taking the stand of the bourgeoisie, they denounced the feudal aristocracy’s privileges and expounded the historical inevitability of the bourgeoisie overthrowing feudal rule and establishing its own political power. In the late 18th century and the early 19th century, bourgeois economists—France’s physiocrat Turgot and Britain’s classical economists Adam Smith and David Ricardo were their representatives—had differentiated classes in society in terms of the different sources of people’s income. They pointed out that capitalist society was made up of the working class, the capitalist class and the land-owning class. And basing themselves on an analysis of three kinds of income—wage, profit and rent—they revealed in some measure the antagonism between these three classes’ economic interests and preliminarily expounded the economic root cause of class contradictions and class struggle in capitalist society.
Though of some progressive nature historically, the theory of class struggle created by bourgeois historians and economists at the end of the 18th century and at the beginning of the 19th century, however, was based on historical idealism. They did not understand that the existence of classes is bound up with and determined by particular historical phases in the development of production; they denied that it is necessary to carry out class struggle in capitalist society and that class struggle is the motive force of the historical development of human society. Thus they failed to reveal the law governing the development of class struggle. What the bourgeoisie recognizes, therefore, is no more than the class struggle it wages to oppose the feudal aristocracy and establish the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie. In the case of the class struggle waged by the proletariat against the bourgeoisie in capitalist society, the bourgeoisie may let it take place provided it does not go beyond the limits permitted by bourgeois interests. The bourgeoisie will not hesitate to resort to violence to cold-bloodedly crack down on the proletariat once the class struggle of the proletariat against the bourgeoisie harms its fundamental interests. This shows that the bourgeoisie fundamentally negates the class struggle by the proletariat to overthrow the capitalist system and denies the dictatorship of the proletariat. It is impossible for the bourgeois theory of class struggle, which is entirely in the service of preserving and consolidating the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, to affect the capitalist system in the least. What the bourgeoisie parades as “parliamentary democracy,” “freedom” and “equality” is only a fig-leaf to cover up the class essence of the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie and a drug to sap the revolutionary fighting will of the proletariat.
Marxism is the scientific theory for the proletarian revolution. It represents the fundamental interests of the proletariat and differs in nature from the bourgeois theory. Marxism maintains that the existence of classes is only bound up with particular historical phases in the development of production. That is to say, classes do not exist from all eternity, nor will they remain for ever. They have their own historical process of emergence, development and abolition. Classes as concomitants of the emergence of the private ownership of the means of production will be abolished with the advent of communist society. In a class society, the antagonistic classes are bound to be locked in life-and-death struggles as a result of their diametrically opposite political and economic interests. Class struggle as such is the motive force of the historical development of class society. This was the case with slave and feudal societies, as it is with capitalist society. In accord with the law of the development of class struggle, Marx analysed the basic contradictions in capitalist society and came to the famous conclusion that “the class struggle necessarily leads to the dictatorship of the proletariat.” (Marx to J. Weydemeyer.) Marxism holds that the savage exploitation of wage-labour by capital and the development of capitalist big industries gave birth to the proletariat, the greatest revolutionary class in human history. The proletariat’s historical mission is not only to overthrow the rule of the bourgeoisie, but also to abolish all classes and eliminate all systems of exploitation and ultimately realize the great ideal of communism. This constitutes the necessary condition for the complete emancipation of the proletariat itself. To fulfil such a great historical mission, the proletariat must carry out a violent revolution, thoroughly smash the state machinery of the bourgeoisie, establish the dictatorship of the proletariat and use this dictatorship as a powerful weapon to carry the class struggle against the bourgeoisie through to the end and prepare the conditions for realizing communism.
Thus it can be seen that Marxism not only recognizes class struggle but also closely links it with the theory of the dictatorship of the proletariat. The Marxist theory of class struggle is an inseparable component of its theory of the dictatorship of the proletariat. For Marxists to talk about class struggle before they seize political power is aimed at explaining the inevitability and necessity of the proletariat seizing political power by force of arms and establishing the dictatorship of the proletariat; that they do the same after seizure of power is for consolidating and strengthening the dictatorship of the proletariat, carrying the socialist revolution through to the end and finally abolishing classes. The fundamental difference between Marxism and the bourgeois theory consists not in whether to recognize class struggle but in whether to recognize the dictatorship of the proletariat and recognize that class struggle necessarily leads to this dictatorship. The theory of the dictatorship of the proletariat is the quintessence of Marxism, and serves as a basic hallmark distinguishing Marxism from bourgeois theories of all descriptions. Those who only recognize the class struggle are not yet Marxists and they may be found to be still within the boundaries of bourgeois thinking and bourgeois politics. Only he is a Marxist who extends the recognition of the class struggle to the recognition of the dictatorship of the proletariat.
Recognizing or opposing the dictatorship of the proletariat is a watershed between Marxism and revisionism. Being agents of the bourgeoisie within the political party of the proletariat, the revisionists flaunt the banner of Marxism to oppose the revolutionary essence of Marxism. They are renegades who betray Marxism. Their betrayal of Marxism finds concentrated expression in opposing the fundamental question of the dictatorship of the proletariat. The revisionists in the Second International represented by Kautsky distorted Marxism from an opportunist angle. Confining Marxism to the bourgeois doctrine of class struggle, Kautsky alienated the dictatorship of the proletariat from class struggle and put them in opposition to each other, preaching that the cardinal point of Marxist theory is class struggle and not the dictatorship of the proletariat. While attacking this dictatorship as “doing away with democracy” and being “arbitrary rule,” he advocated “seizing state power by winning a majority in parliament,” opposed violent revolution, “limits the recognition of the class struggle to the sphere of bourgeois relationships” (Lenin: The State and Revolution), and denied the objective inevitability of the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat. After the victory of the October Revolution, the self-same Kautsky who clamoured that class struggle was the cardinal point of Marxist theory made a 180 degree turn, doing his utmost to deny the existence of classes and class struggle in the Soviet Union after the October Revolution. Openly advertising the theory of the dying out of class struggle and negating the need for the proletariat to exercise dictatorship over the bourgeoisie, he babbled that the capitalists and big land-owners do not exist as classes on account of being expropriated and that they would behave themselves and obey the proletarian majority once they lost their political power. For this, Lenin denounced Kautsky as “a perfect example of petty-bourgeois distortion of Marxism and base renunciation of it in practice, while hypocritically recognizing it in words.” (The State and Revolution.)
Taking over Kautsky’s mantle, the Soviet revisionist renegade clique obliterates class struggle in the socialist period, shouting that “the dictatorship of the proletariat is no longer necessary in the Soviet Union” and publicizing the fallacy of the “state of the whole people,” with which to cover up its bourgeois dictatorship and fascist dictatorship. This is a shameless wholesale betrayal of the dictatorship of the proletariat, which goes farther than that clique’s revisionist forefather Kautsky. Liu Shao-chi and Lin Piao harped on the same tune, too. They did everything possible to spread such revisionist nonsense as the bourgeois theory of human nature, the theory of the dying out of class struggle and the theory of productive forces, all in opposition to the dictatorship of the proletariat. Going all out to trumpet the doctrines of Confucius and Mencius, Lin Piao and his followers howled that “he who relies on virtue will thrive and he who relies on force will perish” and chattered away that “when two sides fight, they become enemies; when two sides live in harmony, they become friends.” In doing so, they wildly opposed the struggle of the proletariat against the bourgeoisie and vainly tried to liquidate the dictatorship of the proletariat.
In their murderous Outline of Project “571,” a programme for staging a counter-revolutionary armed coup, Lin Piao and his gang maliciously attacked the proletarian dictatorship in China as a “feudal autocracy,” while gnashing their teeth cursing the state machinery of the proletarian dictatorship as a “meat grinder.” Taking up the cudgels for the handful of class enemies felled by the iron hand of the dictatorship of the proletariat, they clamoured in the programme that this handful “must be liberated, politically without exception.” All this shows they stopped at nothing to vent their inveterate hatred for the dictatorship of the proletariat. In a word, all revisionists, from Kautsky and the Soviet revisionist renegade clique to Liu Shao-chi and Lin Piao, share the most essential common characteristic of betraying the dictatorship of the proletariat, no matter how they switch tricks. Prior to the seizure of political power by the proletariat, the revisionists confine Marxism to the doctrine of class struggle and oppose establishing the dictatorship of the proletariat; after the seizure of political power by the proletariat, they negate class struggle and oppose the proletariat exercising dictatorship over the bourgeoisie. As Lenin said when he criticized Kautsky, “opportunism does not extend the recognition of class struggle to what is the cardinal point, to the period of transition from capitalism to Communism, to the period of the overthrow and the complete abolition of the bourgeoisie.” (The State and Revolution.) Revisionism is the sworn enemy of the dictatorship of the proletariat.
The Marxist theory of the dictatorship of the proletariat was created and has developed in the course of struggle against revisionism and all kinds of bourgeois trends of thought. Throughout the militant course they traversed in creating the theory of Marxism, Marx and Engels always gave paramount importance to the theory of the dictatorship of the proletariat. In his struggle against the revisionism of the Second International, Lenin upheld the Marxist theory of the dictatorship of the proletariat and developed Marxism to the stage of Leninism. Leading the whole Party in carrying out struggles against revisionism at home and abroad, the great leader of the Chinese people Chairman Mao has inherited, defended and developed the theory of the dictatorship of the proletariat, put forward the theory of the continued revolution under the dictatorship of the proletariat and formulated the Party’s basic line for the entire historical period of socialism. Since the birth of New China, Chairman Mao has initiated and led a series of political movements, especially the Great Proletarian, Cultural Revolution and the movement to criticize Lin Piao and Confucius, thus solving, both in theory and practice, the problem of how to consolidate the dictatorship of the proletariat and prevent capitalist restoration.
The historical experience of the international communist movement and the struggle between the two lines in the Party tells us: The question of the dictatorship of the proletariat has always been the focus of struggle between Marxism and revisionism and recognizing or opposing this dictatorship is the touchstone for testing genuine and sham Marxism. Only those who recognize the dictatorship of the proletariats are true Marxists. For Communist Party members and revolutionaries, to uphold the dictatorship of the proletariat calls for understanding the theory of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought on the dictatorship of the proletariat; and to grasp this theory requires our conscientiously studying it well. Chairman Mao recently pointed out: “Why did Lenin speak of exercising dictatorship over the bourgeoisie? It is essential to get this question clear. Lack of clarity on this question will lead to revisionism. This should be made known to the whole nation.” Acting on this teaching of Chairman Mao’s, the Chinese eople are now earnestly studying the theory of the dictatorship of the proletariat, so as to increase their ability to distinguish genuine from sham Marxism and persist in carrying the continued revolution under the dictatorship of the proletariat through to the end.
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