N.I. Bukharin and E. Preobrazhensky: The ABC of Communism


Chapter 6: The Soviet Power

§ 46 The Soviet Power as a form of proletarian dictatorship

Our party was the first to formulate and the first to realize the demand for Soviet Power. The great revolution of November 1917, was carried through under the watchword, 'All power to the soviets!' Until our party took the phrase as its device, the slogan had never been heard of. Not that the notion simply sprang out of our heads! Far from this being the case, the idea was engendered at the very core of life. As early as the revolution of 1905-6, class organizations of the workers, known as soviets of workers' delegates, came into existence. In the revolution of 1917, these organizations appeared in far greater abundance; almost everywhere there sprouted like mushrooms workers' soviets, soldiers' soviets, and subsequently peasants' soviets. It became clear that these soviets, which had originated as instruments for use in the struggle for power, must inevitably be transformed into the instruments for the wielding of power.

Prior to the Russian revolution of 1917, much had been said and written concerning the dictatorship of the proletariat, but no one clearly understood in what form this dictatorship would be realized. Now, in the Russian revolution, the form of the dictatorship has become manifest as the Soviet Power. THE SOVIET POWER IS THE REALIZATION OF THE DICTATORSHIP OF THE PROLETARIAT, ORGANIZED IN ITS SOVIETS AS THE RULING CLASS, AND, WITH THE AID OF THE PEASANTS, CRUSHING THE RESISTANCE OF THE BOURGEOISIE AND THE LANDLORDS.

At one time most people believed that the dictatorship of the proletariat would be possible in the form of a so-called democratic republic, which would have to be established by the Constituent Assembly, and which would be administered by a parliament representing all classes of the population. Even now, the opportunists and the social solidarians continue to hold the same opinion, declaring that only the Constituent Assembly and a democratic republic can save the country from the disasters of civil war. Actual experience tells a very different tale. In Germany, for instance, such a republic was set up after the revolution of November, 1918. Nevertheless, during the close of 1918 and during 1919 there were sanguinary struggles. Continually the working class was demanding the establishment of a soviet régime. The demand for a soviet régime has in fact become the international watchword of the proletariat. In all countries the workers sound this war-cry, in conjunction with the demand for the dictatorship of the proletariat. Life has confirmed the accuracy of our slogan, 'All power to the soviets', not in Russia alone, but in every country where there is a proletariat.

§ 47 Proletarian democracy and bourgeois democracy

A bourgeois democratic republic is based upon universal suffrage and upon the so-called 'will of the people', the 'will of the whole nation', the 'united will of all classes'. The advocates of a bourgeois democratic republic, of a Constituent Assembly, etc., tell us that we are doing violence to the united will of the nation. Let us consider this matter first.

In Part One we learned that contemporary society consists of classes with conflicting interests. For example, long working hours may be profitable to the bourgeoisie, but they are disadvantageous to the working class. Peace between the classes is as impossible as peace between wolves and sheep. Wolves want to eat sheep, so sheep must defend themselves against wolves. But if this be so (and unquestionably it is so), then we have to ask whether it is possible for wolves and sheep to have a common will. Every intelligent person knows that it is absurd to talk of anything of the kind. There simply cannot be a will common to sheep and wolves. We must have one thing or the other: either a wolves' will, that of those who enslave the cheated and oppressed sheep; or else a sheep's will, that of those who wish to deliver the sheep from the wolves and to drive out the plunderers. There can be no middle course in this matter. Now, it is as clear as daylight that the same thing applies to the two main classes of human society. In contemporary society, class is arrayed against class, the bourgeoisie against the proletariat, the proletariat against the bourgeoisie. Between them there is a war to the knife. How can they possibly have a common will, a bourgeois-proletarian will? Obviously there is no more possibility of bourgeois- proletarian desires and aspirations than of wolf-sheep desires and aspirations. We can either have the will of the bourgeoisie, of the class which imposes its will in various ways upon the oppressed majority of the people; or else we can have the will of the proletariat, of the class which imposes its will upon the bourgeoisie. It is particularly stupid to speak of a will common to all classes, of interests common to the whole nation, in an epoch of civil war, in a period of revolution, when the old world is crumbling to pieces. The proletariat wants to transform the world; the bourgeoisie wants to strengthen the old slavery.

How can there be a 'common' will for bourgeoisie and proletariat? It is manifest that the very phrase about a will common to the whole nation is humbug if the words are intended to apply to all classes. No such common will has been realized or can be realized.

But this fraud is necessary to the bourgeoisie, necessary for the maintenance of capitalist rule. The capitalists are in the minority. They cannot venture to say openly that this small minority rules. This is why the bourgeoisie has to cheat, declaring that it rules in the name of 'the whole people', 'all classes', 'the entire nation', and so on.

How is the fraud carried out in a 'democratic republic'? The chief reason why the proletariat is enslaved today is because it is economically enslaved. Even in a democratic republic, the factories and workshops belong to the capitalists, and the land belongs to the capitalists and the landlords. The worker has nothing but his labour power; the poor peasant has nothing beyond a tiny scrap of land. They are eternally compelled to labour under terrible conditions, for they are under the heel of the master. On paper, they can do a great deal; in actual fact, they can do nothing. They can do nothing because all the wealth, all the power of capital, is in the hands of their enemies. This is what is termed bourgeois democracy.

Bourgeois republics exist in the United States, in Switzerland, and in France. But all these countries are ruled by unscrupulous imperialists, by the trust kings and the bank barons, malignant enemies of the working class. The most democratic republic which existed in the year 1919 was the German Republic with its National Assembly. Yet this was the republic to which the murderers of Karl Liebknecht belonged.

The Soviet Power realizes a new, a much more perfect type of democracy - proletarian democracy. The essence of this proletarian democracy consists in this, that it is based upon the transference of the means of production into the hands of the workers, thus depriving the bourgeoisie of all power. In proletarian democracy, those who formerly constituted the oppressed masses, and their organizations, have become the instruments of rule. In the capitalist system of society, and therefore in bourgeois democratic republics, there existed organizations of workers and peasants. They were, however, overwhelmed by the organizations of the rich. Under proletarian democracy, on the other hand, the rich have been deprived of their wealth. The mass organizations of the workers, the semi-proletarian peasants, etc. (soviets, trade unions, factory committees, etc.), have become the actual foundations of the proletarian State authority. In the constitution of the Soviet Republic we find at the outset the statement: 'Russia declares itself to be a republic of workers', soldiers', and peasants' delegates. All power, both central and local, is vested in these soviets.'

Soviet democracy does not merely not exclude the workers' organizations from government, but it actually makes of them the instruments of government. But since the soviets and the other organizations of the working class and the peasantry number their members by the million, the Soviet Power entrusts with new functions innumerable masses of persons who were formerly oppressed and degraded. To an ever greater extent the masses of the people, the workers and the poor peasants, come to participate in the joint labours of the soviets, the trade unions, and the factory committees. This is going on everywhere. In the country towns and in the villages, people who never did anything of the kind before are now actively participating in the work of administration and in the upbuilding of a new life. In this way the Soviet Power secures the widest self-government for the various localities, and at the same time summons the broad masses of the people to participate in the work of government.

It is evident that our party must devote itself to promoting the world-wide development of this new proletarian democracy. We must do our utmost to secure that the widest strata of the proletarians and the poor peasants shall participate to the utmost of their power in the work of the soviets. In one of his pamphlets, published before the November revolution, Comrade Lenin wrote very truly that our task was to see that every cook should be taught to take her share in governmental administration. Of course this is by no means an easy job, and there are many hindrances to its realization. First among such obstacles comes the low cultural level of the masses. The workers' vanguard is but a small body. In this vanguard, the metal workers, for instance, are conspicuous. But a large proportion of the workers are backward, and this is especially true of the country districts. They lack initiative, they lack creative faculty; they stand aside and let others take the first steps. The task of our party consists in the systematic and gradual attraction of these backward strata to participate in the general work of administration. Of course the only way of bringing new strata to participate in the work is to raise their cultural level and their capacity for organization. This, likewise, is the task of our party.

§ 48 The class character and the transitoryness of the proletarian

The bourgeoisie has everywhere concealed its class rule behind the mask of 'the cause of the whole people'. How could the bourgeoisie, a comparatively small group of parasites, openly acknowledge that it imposes its class will upon all? How could the bourgeoisie venture to declare that the State is but a league of robbers? Of course it could do nothing of the kind. Even when the bourgeoisie hoists the bloodstained standard of a militarist dictatorship, it continues to talk of 'the cause of the whole people'. But the capitalist class is peculiarly adroit in the way in which it cheats the people in the so-called democratic republics. In these, the bourgeoisie rules, and is able to maintain its dictatorship through keeping up certain appearances. The workers are given the right of exercising the parliamentary vote every three or four years, but they are carefully excluded from all power in the administration. Yet because universal suffrage exists, the capitalist class loudly declares that the 'whole people' rules.

The Soviet Power openly proclaims its class character. It makes no attempt to conceal that it is a class power, that the Soviet State is the dictatorship of the poor. The point is emphasized in its very name; the Soviet Government is called the Workers' and Peasants' Government. The constitution, that is to say the fundamental laws of our Soviet Republic, the constitution adopted by the third All-Russian Soviet Congress, expressly declares: 'The third All- Russian Soviet Congress of workers', soldiers', and peasants' delegates, declares that now in the hour of the decisive struggle between the proletariat and the exploiters, there can be no place for the exploiters in any of the instruments of power.' The Soviet Power, therefore, not only proclaims its class character, but does not hesitate to deprive of electoral rights and to exclude from the instruments of power the representatives of those classes which are hostile to the proletariat and to the peasantry. For what reason can and must the Soviet Power act thus openly? Because the Soviet Power really is the power of the working masses, the power of the majority of the population. It has no occasion to conceal that it was born in working class quarters. Far from it, for the more conspicuously the Soviet Power insists upon its origin and its meaning, the closer will be the ties between itself and the masses, and the more outstanding will be its success in the struggle against the exploiters.

Of course this state of affairs will not last for ever. The essence of the matter lies herein, that it is necessary to crush the resistance of the exploiters. But as soon as the exploiters have been repressed, bridled, and tamed, as soon as they have been trained to work and have become workers like everyone else, the pressure upon them will be relaxed and the dictatorship of the proletariat will gradually disappear.

This is expressly stipulated in our constitution (Part II, Chapter 5) : 'The fundamental task of the constitution of the Russian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic - a constitution adapted to the needs of the present period of transition consists in the establishment of the dictatorship of the urban and rural workers and of the poor peasants in the form of a strong All-Russian Soviet Power, whose purpose it will be to effect the complete crushing of the bourgeoisie, to put an end to the exploitation of one human being by another, and to realize socialism, in which there will be neither division into classes nor any State authority.'

From this we may deduce the tasks of our party. The party must systematically expose the bourgeois fraud, which is worked as follows. Certain rights are conceded to the worker, but he is left in material dependence upon a master. Consequently the task of our party is to crush the exploiters by all the means at the disposal of the proletariat. Furthermore, it will be incumbent upon our party, in proportion as it is able to crush the exploiters and their hangers- on, in proportion as it is able to refashion them, by degrees to mitigate and to revoke the measures which it was at first necessary to enforce. Let us suppose, for example, that the professional classes have drawn nearer to the working class, that they are no longer hostile to the workers, that in all they do they are wholly on the side of the Soviet Power, that they are on the best of terms with the proletariat. When this happens (and it is only a question of time), it will be incumbent upon us to give the professional classes full civil rights, and to accept them into our family. Today, when the whole world is in arms against the Workers' Republic, it would be premature to speak of such an extension of rights. But we must never cease to make it perfectly clear that the extension of rights will ultimately be given, and will be given all the sooner, in proportion as there comes a speedier end to the attempts made by the exploiters to overthrow communism. In this manner the proletarian State will gradually die out, and will undergo transformation into a Stateless communist society, wherein the division into classes will have completely disappeared.

§ 49 Rights of the workers under bourgeois democracy and under the Soviet Power

One of the chief frauds of bourgeois democracy consists in this, that it gives only the appearance of rights. On paper we read that the workers can elect to parliament in perfect freedom; that they have the same rights as the masters (they are said to be 'equal before the law'); that they have the right of combination and of public meeting; that they can publish any newspaper and books they please; and so on. These things are called the 'essence of democracy'; we are assured that democracy is for everyone, for the whole people, for all the citizens, so that conditions are quite different from those in the Soviet Republic.

First of all we must point out that no such bourgeois democracy really exists. It existed a hundred years ago, but Mr Bourgeois has done away with it long since.

The United States will serve as the best example of this. Here, during the war, the following laws were promulgated: It was for bidden to speak slightingly of the president; it was forbidden to say anything to the discredit of the Allies; it was forbidden to declare that the entry of the US and of the Entente into the war was the outcome of sordid, material motives; it was forbidden to advocate a premature peace; it was forbidden to utter any public condemnation of the policy of the US government; it was forbidden to say anything to the credit of Germany; it was forbidden to advocate the overthrow of the existing order, the abolition of private property, the class war, etc. The penalty for breaking any of these laws ranged from 3 to 20 years' imprisonment. In the course of a single year, about 1,500 workers were arrested for such offences. The working class organization known as the IWW (Industrial Workers of the World) was savagely attacked, and some of its leaders were lynched. As an example of the 'right to strike', we may mention the strike at the Arizona copper mines in the year 1917, when many of the workers were shot, others flogged, and others tarred and feathered; when whole families were hunted from their homes and reduced to beggary. Again, during the strike at Rockefeller's coal mines, at Ludlow in the State of Colorado, Rockefeller's gunmen shot and burned several hundred workmen and workwomen. Although Congress is elected by universal suffrage, it merely carries out the orders of the trust kings, for nearly all the congressmen are in the pay of the trusts. The uncrowned kings are the real dictators of America. Among them we may name: Rockefeller, the head of the Standard Oil Trust, which controls, in addition to the oil wells, a vast number of banks; Morgan, the railway king, also in control of numerous banks; Schwab, the steel king; Swift, the head of the meat trust; Dupont, the powder king, who amassed incredible wealth during the war. Suffice it to say that Rockefeller's income is $10,000 per hour! Who can withstand such strength? This gang of Schwabs and Rockefellers holds everything in its hands in the name of 'democracy'.

Even if what is termed bourgeois democracy did really exist, in comparison with the Soviet Power it would not be worth a cracked farthing. Paper laws are of no use to the working class unless the possibility of their realization exists. But such a possibility of realization does not exist under the capitalist régime, cannot exist under the system in which the capitalists own all the wealth. Even if the workers enjoy on paper the right of meeting, they often find it quite impossible to exercise such a right. For instance, the innkeepers, incited by the big sharks of capital, or moved by their own hostility to the workers, will frequently refuse to let rooms for meetings - and the workers have nowhere else to go. Here is another example. The workers wish to publish a newspaper, and they have the legal right to do so. But to exercise this right they need money, paper, offices, a printing press, etc. All these things are in the hands of the capitalists. The capitalists won't relax their grip. Nothing doing! Out of the workers' paltry wage it is impossible to accumulate adequate funds. The result is that the bourgeoisie has masses of newspapers and can cheat the workers to its heart's content day after day; whereas the workers, notwithstanding their legal 'rights', have practically no press of their own.

Such is the real character of the workers' 'freedom' under bourgeois democracy. The freedom exists solely on paper. The workers have what is termed 'formal' freedom. In substance, however, they have no freedom, because their formal freedom cannot be translated into the realm of fact. It is the same here as in all other departments of life. According to bourgeois theory, master and man are equals in capitalist society, since 'free contract' exists: the employer offers work; the worker is free to accept or refuse. Thus it is upon paper! In actual fact, the master is rich and well fed; the worker is poor and hungry. He must work or starve. Is this equality? There can be no equality between rich and poor, whatever the written word declares. This is why, in the capitalist régime, 'freedom' has a bourgeois complexion.

In the Soviet Republic, on the other hand, freedom really exists for the working class. It exists because it is a freedom which can be translated into the realm of fact. Let us quote from the constitution of the Russian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic (Part II, Chapter 5).

'14. In order to secure for the workers actual freedom of expression of opinion, the Russian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic abolishes the dependence of the press upon capital, and puts into the hands of the working class and the poor peasantry all the technical and material means for the publication of newspapers, pamphlets, books, and all other products of the printing press, and provides for their free distribution throughout the country.

'15. In order to secure for the workers the actual right of assembly, the Russian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic gives to all citizens of the Soviet Republic the unrestricted right to hold meetings and congresses, to march in processions, etc., and puts into the hands of the working class and the poor peasants all the buildings suitable for the purpose of holding public meetings, together with the provision of light, heating, etc.

'16. In order to secure for the workers actual freedom of combination, the Russian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic, having overthrown the economic and political power of the possessing classes, and having removed all the hindrances which hitherto in bourgeois society have prevented the workers and peasants from effectively realizing the freedom of organization and activity, furnishes to the workers and poor peasants every kind of assistance, material and moral, requisite for their combination and organization.

'17. In order to secure for the workers effective access to knowledge, the Russian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic makes it its duty to provide the workers and poor peasants with a complete, many-sided, and gratuitous education.'

Herein we see the enormous difference between the spurious freedoms of bourgeois democracy and the effective freedoms of proletarian democracy.

The Soviet Power and our party have already done much in this direction. The mansions of the nobles, the theatres, the printing presses, paper, etc. - all these now belong to the working class organizations and to the workers' State. Our further task is to help by all possible means towards the full realization of these rights by the backward strata of the proletariat and the peasantry. This will be achieved in two ways. First of all, we must continually advance along the road we have marked out, and must do everything in our power to broaden the material foundations of the workers' freedom. We must, therefore, do our utmost to design and build new houses, set up new printing presses, instal workers' palaces, etc. Secondly, the backward strata of the population must be made intimately acquainted with those possibilities of freedom which already exist, but which they have not hitherto been able to profit by, owing to ignorance, mental darkness, and lack of culture.

§ 50 The equality of the workers, irrespective of sex, creed and race

Bourgeois democracy proclaims in words a whole series of freedoms, but from the oppressed these freedoms are safeguarded by five locks and seven seals. Among other things, bourgeois democracy has often declared that people are equal irrespective of sex, creed, race, and nationality. Proudly has the pledge been given that under the bourgeois democratic system all are equals: women and men; whites, yellows, and blacks; Europeans and Asiatics; Buddhists, Christians, and Jews. In reality, the bourgeoisie has failed to carry out these pledges. During the imperialist epoch, there has been all over the world a terrible increase in racial and national oppression. (For details see the next chapter.) But even as concerns women, bourgeois democracy is far from having realized equality. Woman has remained a being without rights, a domestic animal, part of the furniture of the marital couch.

The working woman in capitalist society is peculiarly oppressed, peculiarly deprived of rights. In all matters she has even less than the beggarly rights which the bourgeoisie grants to the working man. The right to the parliamentary vote has been conceded in a few countries only. As regards the right of inheritance, woman everywhere receives the beggar's portion. In family life she is always subject to her husband, and everything that goes wrong is considered to be her fault. In a word, bourgeois democracy everywhere exhibits as regards women laws and customs which strongly remind us of the customs of savages, who exchange, buy, punish, or steal women just as if they were chattels, dolls, or beasts of burden. Our Russian proverb runs, 'A hen is not a bird, and a woman is not a person'; here we have the valuation of a slave society. This state of affairs is extremely disadvantageous to the proletariat. There are more women than men amongst the workers. It is obvious that the struggle of the proletariat must be greatly hindered by the lack of equality between the two halves of which it is composed. Without the aid of the women of the proletariat, it is idle to dream of a general victory, it is idle to dream of the 'freeing of labour'. For this reason, it is greatly to the interest of the working class that there should be complete fighting comradeship between the female and the male portions of the proletariat, and that this comradeship should be strengthened by equality. The Soviet Power is the first to have realized such equality in all departments of life: in marriage, in the family, in political affairs, etc. In all things, throughout Soviet Russia, women are the equals of men.

It is incumbent upon our party to effect the realization of this equality in actual life. Before all, we must make it clear to the broad masses of the workers that the subjection of women is extremely harmful to them. Hitherto among the workers it has been customary to look upon women as inferiors; as for the peasants, they smile when a 'mere woman' begins to take an interest in social affairs. In the Soviet Republic the working woman has exactly the same rights as the working man; she can elect to the soviets and be elected to them.; she can hold any commissar's office; can do any kind of work in the army, in economic life, and in the State administration.

But in Russia, working women are far more backward than working men. Many people look down upon them. In this matter persevering efforts are needed: among men, that they may cease blocking women's road; among women, that they may learn to make a full use of their rights, may cease to be timid or diffident.

We must not forget that 'every cook has to be taught to take her share in governmental administration'. We have learned above that the really important matter is not the right that is written on paper, but the possibility of realizing a right in practice. How can a working woman effectively realize her rights when she has to devote so much time to housekeeping, must go to the market and wait her turn there, must do the family washing, must look after her children, must bear the heavy burden of all this domestic drudgery?

The aim of the Soviet Republic and of our party must be, to deliver working women from such slavery, to free the working woman from these obsolete and antediluvian conditions. The organization of house communes (not places in which people will wrangle, but places in which they will live like human beings) with central wash-houses; the organization of communal kitchens; the organization of communal nurseries, kindergartens, playgrounds, summer colonies for children, schools with communal dining rooms, etc. - such are the things which will enfranchise woman, and will make it possible for her to interest herself in all those matters which now interest the proletarian man.

In an era of devastation and famine, it is, of course, difficult to do all these things as they ought to be done. Nevertheless, our party must in this manner do its utmost to attract the working woman to play her part in the common task.

National equality, racial equality, etc., will be considered in the next chapter. Here we shall merely quote the paragraphs in the constitution which touch on this topic (Part II, Chapter 5).

'20. In view of the solidarity of the workers of all lands, the Russian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic grants the political rights of Russian citizens to foreigners living in the territories of the Russian Republic, provided they live by their own labour and either belong to the working class or are peasants who do not employ others' labour ; it recognizes the right of the local soviets to grant Russian citizenship to such foreigners without any tedious formalities.

'21. The Russian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic grants the right of asylum to all foreigners suffering persecution on account of political or religious offences.

'22. The Russian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic, recognizing the equal rights of all citizens irrespective of their racial or national origin, declares the institution or maintenance of any privilege or preferential advantage upon the ground of such origin to be contrary to the fundamental law of the republic; no less contrary to the fundamental law is any sort of oppression of national minorities or any limitation of their equal rights.'

§ 51 Parliamentarism and the Soviet system

In bourgeois democratic States, at the head of everything stands what is known as parliament. This is a representative institution, the electoral franchise varying in different countries. In some, only the rich have the vote; in some, a part of the poor are admitted to the franchise; in a third group, all the men of a certain age can vote; in a fourth country, all the women as well.

But even where parliament is elected by universal suffrage, the majority of the seats are invariably occupied by representatives of the bourgeoisie. Why does this always happen? The reason is obvious in view of what we have already learned. Let us suppose that the workers, who form the majority in the country, have the right to vote. But let us further suppose that all the wealth is in the hands of the capitalists, that they own all the newspapers and all the places where public meetings can be held, and that artists, printing presses, and millions of leaflets are at their service; that from all the pulpits the clergy advocate their cause; let us suppose, moreover, that the poor workers are engaged day after day in exhausting toil, that they have no meeting-places, that clever fellows circulate among them (agents of the bourgeoisie, lawyers, journalists, and other glib talkers) advocating what seem to be excellent watchwords, and thus confusing the workers' minds; let us remember the enormous financial resources of the trust magnates, which enable them to corrupt the workers' representatives - however honest these may have been at the outset - by offering comfortable jobs, by flattery in the daily press, and so on. Then we can understand why it is that even in such parliaments the majority always consists of the secret or declared agents of the bourgeoisie, of financial capital, of the bank kings.

It is, therefore, extraordinarily difficult for the working masses to elect any of their own folk as representatives.

Once a representative finds his way to parliament, the matter is finished; he can defy the electors; for three or four years his seat is secure. He is independent of them. He sells himself right and left. He cannot be recalled by the electors; the law makes no provision for anything of the kind.

Such is the state of affairs in a bourgeois democratic republic under parliamentarism. It is very different in the Soviet Republic. Here the parasites -the traders and the factory owners, the prelates and the landlords, the military officers and the rich peasants - have no right to the vote. They can neither elect nor be elected. On the other hand, the exercise of the franchise by the workers and the poor peasants is simple and easy. Moreover, every delegate to the soviet can be recalled by the electors, who can send another in his place. If the delegate fulfils his duties badly, if he turns his coat, etc., he can be recalled. This right of recall has nowhere been so extensively adopted as in the Soviet Republic.

In a bourgeois republic, parliament is a 'talking shop'; the members do nothing but discuss and make speeches. The real work is done by officials, ministers of State, etc. Parliament passes laws; it 'controls' the ministers by asking them various questions; it votes what the administration decides. In parliament is concentrated what is termed the legislative authority. But the executive authority is in the hands of the cabinet. Parliament, therefore, does nothing; parliament merely talks. In the soviet system, affairs are arranged quite differently. The highest and most important instrument of government is the Congress of Soviets. The constitution states: 'The All-Russian Congress of Soviets is the supreme authority of the Russian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic.' It must meet at least twice a year. Having reviewed the general situation, it makes suitable decisions, which become laws. The members of the congress are not professional talkers, but real workers, with something definite to do. In the intervals between the congresses the supreme authority is vested in the Central Executive Committee, elected by the congress. The Central Executive Committee exercises at one and the same time legislative and executive functions; that is to say, it not only passes laws, but conducts public affairs. Its departments are known as the People's Commissariats, and its members work in these commissariats. Thus the Central Executive Committee is a real working committee.

Like the Central Executive Committee, the other soviet institutions are closely unified, and are based upon a whole series of organizations of the working masses. The soviet institutions are based on the Communist Party, the trade unions, the factory committees, and the cooperatives. These organizations comprise many millions of workers, who all combine to support the Soviet Power. Through the instrumentality of these organizations, the toiling masses take an active part in the State administration. The Communist Party and the trade unions appoint their most trusted members to fill all the posts and to carry out all the functions. In this way the best among the workers are delegated, not merely to talk, but actually to administer. In the so-called democratic republic, nothing of this kind happens. There the working class elector drops his ballot paper into the box, and then his part in the affair ends. The burgeoisie assures him that he has fulfilled his 'duties as a citizen'; he need trouble himself no longer about affairs of State.

These arrangements conceal one of the fundamental frauds of the bourgeois system of government. The fraud is of the same nature as those previously explained. On paper it seems as if the workers were ' participating' in some way. In actual fact they are altogether outside the current of affairs. Everything is administered and all the work is done by a special caste of bourgeois officials, quite distinct from the masses, and constituting what is known as the bureaucracy. The administrative apparatus is out of reach of the masses; the masses have no contact with it whatever.

Down to the sixteenth or seventeenth century the State officials were drawn only from the nobility. During the change to the capitalist system, a professional officialdom came into existence. Of late years, this professional officialdom has been -mainly recruited from the ranks of the so-called intelligentsia or professional classes, but the higher posts have been filled by members of the wealthier bourgeoisie. Even the lesser officials, however, are trained in a spirit of devotion towards the robber State; the more talented among, them look forward to a rise in rank, to orders and titles, to an 'official career'. The result is that most of these gentlemen are full of profound disdain for the 'common people'. The dimensions and growth of this officialdom may be learned from the following figures, which are taken from Olshevsky's book Bureaucracy. In Austria, in the year 1874, they numbered in round figures 27,000; in 1891, they numbered 16,000; in 1900 they numbered 169,000. In France, the number of officials in the year 1891 was 1,500,000, this being approximately 4 per cent of the population. In Britain, in the same year, there were about 1,000,000 officials [civil servants], this being approximately 2-6 per cent of the population. In the United States, in the year 1890, there were 750,000 officials. Olshevsky, himself a bourgeois, tells us that the bureaucracy is characterized by the following traits: routinism, red- tapism, overbearing manners, pettiness. In all capitalist countries, administrative work is actually in the hands of an officialdom of this character. We must repeat that the highest officials are mainly recruited from the wealthier bourgeoisie, and from the circles of the nobility and the great landowners. This is inevitable in capitalist society, where the bourgeoisie rules.

In the Soviet Republic, the masses do not merely elect (electing not venal lawyers but their own folk), but they participate in the work of administration, for the soviets and the other organizations of the working masses are actually engaged in administrative work.

As far as the soviets are concerned, the elections are of such a character as will retain close contact between these bodies and the masses. For the elections to the soviets are not territorial in the residential sense, but are based upon the places where people work (factories, workshops, etc.); they are based, as the phrase runs, upon 'productive units'. Those who are united in their working life elect from among their number, as their delegates, the persons in whom they have the greatest confidence.

Thus the Soviet Power realizes an enormously higher form, a far more genuinely popular form, of democracy - proletarian democracy.

What, then, is the further task of our party? Our common course is clear. Our party has to realize proletarian democracy to a greater and ever greater extent; to bring about an increasingly close contact between delegates or elected persons (those deputed to perform various tasks) and the masses; to induce the workers to participate more and more effectively in the work of administration; finally, to ensure that millions of eyes shall watch the delegates and control their work. Everything possible must be done to see to it that all persons entrusted with authority shall be held responsible and shall frequently be called to account.

The carrying out of these tasks is a great undertaking. There are many obstacles to be overcome. The obstacles must be surmounted. We must achieve a full and inseparable union of three elements: the State apparatus; the active masses of the proletariat, the builders of communism; and the poor peasants.

§ 52 The army and the Soviet Power

Proletarian democracy, like every other State authority, has its armed forces - its army and its navy. In the bourgeois democratic State, the army is used to keep down the workers and to defend the capitalists' money-bags. The proletarian army, the Red Army of the Soviet Republic, is used for the class purposes of the proletariat and for the struggle against the bourgeoisie. Consequently, in respect of the conditions of service and in respect of political rights, there is a vast difference between a bourgeois army and a proletarian army. The bourgeoisie finds it expedient to pretend that its army is 'above politics'. In reality, it uses the army as a means for promoting its predatory and counter-revolutionary policy under the flag of the defence of 'national interests'. It does everything in its power to sow division between the army and the people. By a thousand subterfuges, it deprives soldiers of the possibility of utilizing their political rights. Things are very different in the Soviet Republic. In the first place, the proletariat frankly declares that the Red Army is an instrument for use in the political class struggle against the bourgeoisie. In the second place; the Soviet Power uses all possible means to bring about an intimate union between the army and the people. The workers are solidarized in the soviets with the soldiers of the Red Army; these soviets are known as 'Soviets of Workers' and Soldiers' Delegates'. The workers and the soldiers study in the same schools, and attend the same courses of lectures, they mingle at public meetings; they rub shoulders in demonstrations. Again and again, the workers have entrusted the fighting flag to the soldiers of the Red Army; and again and again the soldiers have entrusted the colours to the workers. In the Soviet State, which is nothing else than a great republic of workers, success can only be achieved in the fight against our enemies when there is an indestructible unity between the Red Army and the revolutionary working class.

The more intimate the solidarity of the working class with the army and of the army with the working class, the more durable will be our fighting revolutionary strength. Obviously, then, our party must sustain, develop, and strengthen this unity. Experience has shown that intimate association with proletarian organizations exercises a remarkable influence upon the army. We need only recall the resistance to Kolchak in the summer of 1919 and to Denikin in the autumn of the same year. These victories could not have been achieved had not the army been assisted by workers from the party, from the trade unions, etc., who flocked to the colours. For this reason the Red Army of the proletariat is in actual fact, and not merely in words, the first people's army, the first army created by the will of the workers, organized by the workers, solidarized with them, indissolubly united with them, and, by means of its representatives in the soviets, participating in the administration of the country. The Red Army is not something distinct from the people; it consists of the working class and the poor peasants; and it marches under the leadership of the working class. The army lives in the most intimate association with the workers at the rear. It is the absolute duty of our party to be indefatigable in its endeavours to consolidate this unity.

§ 53 The leading role of the proletariat

In our revolution, which is a communist revolution, the princi pal role, the role of leader, has been assigned to the proletariat. The proletariat is the most united and the best organized class. The proletariat is the only class whose conditions of life in capitalist society have been such as to lead to the acquirement of sound communist views; to it alone have these conditions disclosed the true goal and the right way of attaining it. Naturally, therefore, the proletariat has led the van in this revolution. The peasants (the middle peasants and even some of the poor peasants) were far from steadfast. They were only successful when they joined forces with the proletariat. Conversely, whenever the peasants took a different line from the proletarians, they were inevitably enslaved by Denikin, Kolchak, or some other representative of the landlords, the capitalists, or the military caste.

This leading role, this dominant mission of the proletariat, finds expression in the soviet constitution. Our laws grant the proletariat certain preferential political rights. For example, the electoral arrangements of the Congresses of Soviets are of such a nature, that, proportionally to their numbers, the urban workers have more delegates than the peasants.

Here are the relevant paragraphs of the constitution.

'The All-Russian Congress of Soviets consists of representatives of the Town Soviets, which are entitled to send one delegate for every 25,000 electors, and of representatives of the Provincial Soviets, which are entitled to send one delegate for every 125,000 inhabitants.' (Part III, Chapter 5, Par. 25.)

' Congresses of Soviets consist of: (a) Regional Congresses, composed of representatives from the Town Soviets and from the County Congresses of Soviets, in the proportion of one delegate to 25,000 inhabitants, and from the Towns in the proportion of one delegate to 5,000 electors, with the proviso that there shall not be more than 500 delegates for the whole Region - or composed of the representatives to the Provincial Congresses of Soviets, elected on the same basis when the Provincial Congress meets immediately before the Regional Congress of Soviets. (b) Provincial Congresses composed of representatives of the Town Soviets and of the Rural District Congresses of Soviets, in the proportion of one delegate to 10,000 inhabitants, and from the Towns in the proportion of one delegate to 2,000 electors, with the proviso that there shall not be more than 300 delegates for the whole Province - but when a County Congress of Soviets takes place immediately before the Provincial Congress of Soviets, the elections shall be held after the manner of those, not to the Rural District Congress of Soviets, but to the County Congress of Soviets.' (Part III, Chapter 10, Par. 53.)

In the towns, it will be seen, the delegates are elected proportionally to the number of electors, but in the villages, proportionally to the number of inhabitants (these comprising, not only the workers in the strict sense of the term, but also the rich peasants, the clergy, the rural bourgeoisie, etc., as well as the children, who have no electoral rights). It follows from this that the preference given to the urban workers as against the peasants is less extensive than might appear at first sight. But the preferential treatment is indubitable.

These constitutionally specified privileges merely give expression to what actually exists, namely that the solidly organized urban proletariat leads the disorganized rural masses.

It is the first duty of the Communist Party to do everything it can to make plain that these privileges are temporary. In proportion as the backward strata of the country dwellers grow more enlightened, when experience has convinced them that the measures adopted by the workers are right and profitable, when they realize that they must not walk with the bourgeoisie but only with the proletariat, obviously the abovedescribed temporary inequality will cease to exist.

The Communist Party must utilize the privileges of the proletariat in order to influence the rural districts, in order to solidarize the more advanced workers with the peasants. Thus only will the revolutionary enlightenment of the poorer peasants be successfully achieved. The privileged position of the workers has not been given them that they may be exclusive or may separate themselves from the dwellers in the rural districts, but in order that they may make a good use of it, in order that, by their greater influence in the soviets and the administration, they may bring the working class into closer contact with village life, that they may inaugurate and sustain a comradely union of the proletariat with the middle peasants and the poor peasants. Thus the workers will be able to free the peasants from the influence of the rich peasants, the clergy, the sometime landlords, etc.

§ 54 Bureaucracy and the Soviet Power

The Soviet Power has been organized, as the power of a new class, the proletariat, upon the ruins of the old bourgeois power. Before the proletariat could organize its own power, it had to break the power of its adversaries. With the aid of the Soviet Power, the proletariat seized and destroyed the vestiges of the old State. It broke up the old police force, abolished the remnants of the secret service, abolished the gendarmerie and the tsarist bourgeois law courts with their public prosecutors and salaried defenders; it swept away many of the old government departments, annihilated the bourgeois ministries of State with their armies of officials, etc. What was the aim of all this? And what is now the general task of our party? We have referred to the matter already in Part One of the present work. The task is this, to replace the old officialdom by the masses themselves, to bring it to pass that the whole working population shall put its hand to the job of administration (working in some occupations by turns for brief spells, and in other occupations by turns for long spells). But we have had serious difficulties to encounter. The chief obstacles have been the following.

First of all came the imperfect development, the lack of enlightenment, the timidity, of the backward strata of the urban population and still more of the rural population. The vanguard, which consists of the bold spirits, of those who are active in body and in mind, of those who are well informed, constitutes a comparatively thin stratum. The others are very slow to move. A great many are still afraid to put their hands to the plough; a great many are still ignorant of their own rights, and have not yet realized that they are the masters of the country. This is not difficult to understand. The masses have been oppressed and enslaved for centuries; it is impossible that from their half-savage condition they should in a moment rise to a level at which they can govern the country. Those who first come to the front are those who belong to the most highly developed stratum; the workers of Petrograd, for instance. These we encounter everywhere. We find them as army commissars, as organizers of production, as executive committee delegates in the rural districts, as propagandists, as members of the highest soviet institutions, as teachers. By degrees even the backward masses are leavened; they cast the old things aside; they assimilate the new; little by little they teach themselves. It is, however, obvious that the low level of general culture must be a great hindrance to progress.

Secondly we had the lack of experience in the work of administration. This is manifest even in the best of the comrades. The working class has for the first time taken power into its hands. It has never done any administrative work, and no one has ever taught it how to do anything of the kind. On the contrary, for decades during the tsarist régime, and also during the brief Guchkov-Kerensky administration, everything that was possible was done to prevent the proletariat from getting any such experience. Both the bourgeois and the feudalist State were organizations for keeping the workers down, not organizations for educating them. Naturally, therefore, the workers, having risen to power, will, while learning by experience, make a great many mistakes. By these mistakes they learn, but inevitably they make them.

Thirdly we had trouble with bourgeois specialists of the old school. The proletariat was forced to retain many of them in its service. It made them submit, set them to work, got the better of their sabotage. In the end, it has turned them to successful account. But these bourgeois experts are apt to cling to their old customs. They look down upon the masses with contempt, and will not mix with them on equal terms; they often cling to the old and evil office routine; they dilly-dally; and their bad example tends to corrupt our own people.

Fourthly we had the withdrawal of the best energies to the army. During the most critical periods of the civil war, when the army was in urgent need of the most trusty and valiant fighters, it was often necessary to dispatch the very best of our own people to the front. In consequence of this, there remained at the rear only a comparatively small number of the most advanced among the workers.

All these circumstances make our work extremely difficult, and tend to a certain degree to promote the reintroduction of bureaucracy into the Soviet system. This is a grave danger for the proletariat. The workers did not destroy the old officialridden State with the intention of allowing it to grow up again from new roots. Our party, therefore, must do its utmost to avert this danger. It can only be averted by attracting the masses to take part in the work. The fundamental matter, of course, is to raise the general cultural level of the workers and peasants, to make an end of illiteracy, to diffuse enlightenment. In addition, however, a whole series of other measures is essential. Among these, our party advocates the following.

It is absolutely indispensable that every member of a soviet should play some definite part in the work of State administration. It is incumbent upon every member of a soviet, not merely to pass opinions upon the matters that come up for discussion, but himself to take part in the common task, in his own person to fill some social office.

The next essential is that there should be a continuous rotation in these functions. This implies that every comrade must, after a definite time, change over from one occupation to another, so that by degrees he shall become experienced in all the important branches of administrative work. The comrade must not stick for years to one and the same job, for if he does this he will become a routinist official of the old type. As soon as he has learned the routine of one office, he must remove to another.

Finally, our party recommends, as far as concerns the general arrangement of the work, that by degrees the entire working population shall be induced to participate in the State administration. Here, in fact, is the true foundation of our political system. Certain steps in this direction have already been taken. For example, ten thousand proletarians participated in the house-to-house visitations of the Petrograd bourgeoisie. Again, nearly the whole of the working population of Petrograd took part in safeguarding the city. Yet again, to relieve the men for other duties, working women entered the militia service. In the soviets it is possible to train non-members as assistants. By looking on, at first, they can learn the work of the executive committee and the sub- committees. The same thing can be done in the factory committees and in the trade unions, where all the members can take office by turns. In a word, in one way or another (practical experience will teach us the best methods), we must follow in the footsteps of the Paris Commune, must simplify the work of administration, attract the masses to participate in it, completely put an end to bureaucracy. The more extensive this participation of the masses is, the sooner will the dictatorship of the proletariat die out. As soon as all the healthy adult members of the population, all without exception, have come to participate in administration, the last vestiges of bureaucracy will disappear. Concurrently with the disappearance of our bourgeois antagonists, we shall be able to celebrate the obsequies of the State. The government of men will be replaced by the administration of things - the administration of machinery, buildings, locomotives, and other apparatus. The communist order of society will be fully installed.

The dying out of the State will proceed far more rapidly when a complete victory has been gained over the imperialists. Today, when a fierce civil war is still raging, all our organizations have to be on a war footing. The instruments of the Soviet Power have had to be constructed on militarist lines Often enough there is no time to summon the soviets, and as a rule, therefore, the executive committees have to decide everything.

This state of affairs is due to the military situation of the Soviet Republic. What exists today in Russia is not simply the dictatorship of the proletariat; it is a militarist- proletarian dictatorship The republic is an armed camp. Obviously, the above-described conditions will not pass away while the need persists for the militarization of all our organizations.


Lenin, The State and Revolution; Lenin, Will the Bolsheviks Retain the Authority of the State?; Osinsky, A Democratic Republic or a Soviet Republic?; Lenin, Theses concerning bourgeois and proletarian Democracy adopted by the first Congress of the Communist International; Lenin, The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky; Stuchka, The Constitution of the RSFSR in Question and Answer; Bukharin, Parliamentarism or Soviet Republic?; Karpinsky, What the Soviet Power is; Karpinsky and Latsis, What the Soviet Power is and how it is built up.