Written: 27 May, 1919
First Published: Pravda No. 115, May 29, 1919; Published according to the manuscript
Source: Lenin’s Collected Works, 4th English Edition, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1972 Volume 29, pages 387-391
Translated: George Hanna
Transcription/HTML Markup: David Walters & Robert Cymbala
Copyleft: V. I. Lenin Internet Archive (www.marx.org) 2002. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License
Comrades, the news we have been receiving from the Hungarian Soviet leaders fills us with enthusiasm and pleasure. Soviet government has been in existence in Hungary for only a little over two months, yet as regards organisation the Hungarian proletariat already seems to have excelled us. That is understandable, for in Hungary the general cultural level of the population is higher; further more, the proportion of industrial workers to the total population is immeasurably greater (in Budapest there are three million of the eight million population of present-day Hungary), and, lastly, in Hungary the transition to the Soviet system, to the dictatorship of the proletariat, has been incomparably easier and more peaceful.
This last circumstance is particularly important. The majority of the European socialist leaders, of both the social-chauvinist and Kautskyite trends, have become so much a prey to purely philistine prejudices, fostered by decades of relatively “peaceful” capitalism and the bourgeois parliamentary system, that they are unable to understand that Soviet power and the dictatorship of the proletariat mean. The proletariat cannot perform its epoch-making liberating mission unless it removes these leaders from its path, unless it sweeps them out of its way. These people believed, or half-believed, the bourgeois lies about Soviet power in Russia and were unable to distinguish the nature of the new, proletarian democracy—democracy for the working people, socialist democracy, as embodied in Soviet government—from bourgeois democracy, which they slavishly worship and call “pure democracy” or “democracy” in general.
These blind people, fettered by bourgeois prejudices, failed to understand the epoch-making change from bourgeois to proletarian democracy, from bourgeois to proletarian dictatorship. They confused certain specific features of Russian Soviet government, of the history of its development in Russia, with Soviet government as an international phenomenon.
The Hungarian proletarian revolution is helping even the blind to see. The form of transition to the dictatorship of the proletariat in Hungary is altogether different from that in Russia—voluntary resignation of the bourgeois government, instantaneous restoration of working-class unity, socialist unity on a communist programme. The nature of Soviet power is now all the clearer; the only form of rule which has the support of the working people and of the proletariat at their head that is now possible anywhere in the world is Soviet rule, the dictatorship of the proletariat.
This dictatorship presupposes the ruthlessly severe, swift and resolute use of force to crush the resistance of the exploiters, the capitalists, landowners and their underlings. Whoever does not understand this is not a revolutionary, and must be removed from the post of leader or adviser of the proletariat.
But the essence of proletarian dictatorship is not in force alone, or even mainly in force. Its chief feature is the organisation and discipline of the advanced contingent of the working people, of their vanguard; of their sole leader, the proletariat, whose object is to build socialism, abolish the division of society into classes, make all members of society working people, and remove the basis for all exploitation of man by man. This object cannot be achieved at one stroke. It requires a fairly long period of transition from capitalism to socialism, because the reorganisation of production is a difficult matter, because radical changes in all spheres of life need time, and because the enormous force of habit of running things in a petty-bourgeois and bourgeois way can only be overcome by a long and stubborn struggle. That is why Marx spoke of an entire period of the dictatorship of the proletariat as the period of transition from capitalism to socialism.
Throughout the whole of this transition period, resistance to the revolution will be offered both by the capitalists and by their numerous myrmidons among the bourgeois intellectuals, who will resist consciously, and by the vast mass of the working people, including the peasants, who are shackled very much by petty-bourgeois habits and traditions, and who all too often will resist unconsciously. Vacillations among these groups are inevitable. As a working man the peasant gravitates towards socialism, and prefers the dictatorship of the workers to the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie. As a seller of grain, the peasant gravitates towards the bourgeoisie, towards freedom of trade, i.e., back to the “habitual”, old, “time-hallowed” capitalism.
What is needed to enable the proletariat to lead the peasants and the petty-bourgeois groups in general is the dictatorship of the proletariat, the rule of one class, its strength of organisation and discipline, its centralised power based on all the achievements of the culture, science and technology of capitalism, its proletarian affinity to the mentality of every working man, its prestige with the disunited, less developed working people in the countryside or in petty industry, who are less firm in politics. Here phrase-mongering about “democracy” in general, about “unity” or the “unity of labour democracy”, about the “equality” of all “men of labour”, and so on and so forth—the phrase-mongering for which the now petty-bourgeois social-chauvinists and Kautskyites have such a predilection—is of no use whatever. Phrase-mongering only throws dust in the eyes, blinds the mind and strengthens the old stupidity, conservatism, and routine of capitalism, the parliamentary system and bourgeois democracy.
The abolition of classes requires a long, difficult and stubborn class struggle, which, after the overthrow of capitalist rule, after the destruction of the bourgeois state, after the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat, does not disappear (as the vulgar representatives of the old socialism and the old Social-Democracy imagine), but merely changes its forms and in many respects becomes fiercer.
The proletariat, by means of a class struggle against the resistance of the bourgeoisie, against the conservatism, routine, irresolution and vacillation of the petty bourgeoisie, must uphold its power, strengthen its organising influence, “neutralise” those groups which fear to leave the bourgeoisie and which follow the proletariat too hesitantly, and consolidate the new discipline, the comradely discipline of the working people, their firm bond with the proletariat, their unity with the proletariat—that new discipline, that new basis of social ties in place of the serf discipline of the Middle Ages and the discipline of starvation, the discipline of “free” wage-slavery under capitalism.
In order to abolish classes a period of the dictatorship of one class is needed, the dictatorship of precisely that oppressed class which is capable not only of overthrowing the exploiters, not only of ruthlessly crushing their resistance, but also of breaking ideologically with the entire bourgeois-democratic outlook, with all the philistine phrase-mongering about liberty and equality in general (in reality, this phrase-mongering implies, as Marx demonstrated long ago, the “liberty and equality” of commodity owners, the “liberty and equality” of the capitalist and the worker ).
More, classes can be abolished only by the dictatorship of that oppressed class which has been schooled, united, trained and steeled by decades of the strike and political struggle against capital—of that class alone which has assimilated all the urban, industrial, big-capitalist culture and has the determination and ability to protect it and to preserve and further develop all its achievements, and make them available to all the people, to all the working people—of that class alone which will be able to bear all the hardships, trials, privations and great sacrifices which history inevitably imposes upon those who break with the past and boldly hew a road for themselves to a new future—of that class alone whose finest members are full of hatred and contempt for everything petty-bourgeois and philistine, for the qualities that flourish so profusely among the petty bourgeoisie, the minor employees and the “intellectuals”—of that class alone which “has been through the hardening school of labour” and is able to inspire respect for its efficiency in every working person and every honest man.
Hungarian workers! Comrades! You have set the world an even better example than Soviet Russia by your ability to unite all socialists at one stroke on the platform of genuine proletarian dictatorship. You are now faced with the most gratifying and most difficult task of holding your own in a rigorous war against the Entente. Be firm. Should vacillation manifest itself among the socialists who yesterday gave their support to you, to the dictatorship of the proletariat, or among the petty bourgeoisie, suppress it ruthlessly. In war the coward’s legitimate fate is the bullet.
You are waging the only legitimate, just and truly revolutionary war, a war of the oppressed against the oppressors, a war of the working people against the exploiters, a war for the victory of socialism. All honest members of the working class all over the world are on your side. Every month brings the world proletarian revolution nearer.
Be firm! Victory will be yours!
May 27, 1919
 Karl Marx, “Critique of the Gotha Program” (see Marx and Engels, Selected Works, Vol. II, Moscow, 1962, pp. 32-33).