Letter: Dictatorship and Parliament
Boston, Mass., U.S.A.
Being interested in the official position of your organisation, I would appreciate your answers to the following questions: —
Does the S.P. of G.B. recognise the necessity of instituting a dictatorship of the proletariat ?
If it does, under what conditions can such a dictatorship be realised, and what would be its chief characteristics?
Is it possible for the working class to capture and retain political power without crushing and destroying the democratic, parliamentary form of the state which exists in modern capitalist countries to-day?
The phrase, “Dictatorship of the Proletariat,” is now generally used to cover the political form adopted by the Russian Bolsheviks and urged by the Communists of different countries. We take this, therefore, to be the form implied in the question, whatever may have been the earlier meaning of the phrase, and we will answer it from this point of view. We are opposed to this form of Dictatorship as it is an evidence of lack of understanding of Socialism on the part of the majority of the population—the workers. While the workers lack understanding they will defeat all the efforts of a minority in control of power to introduce a system based upon the common ownership of the means of production and distribution. This fact has been dearly demonstrated in Russia and the earlier, and probably more sincere of the Bolsheviks, had very rapidly to face it, and to curtail their proposals for ushering in a new system on a communal basis. Russia’s recent advance towards a democratic parliamentary form of Government is a further evidence of the failure of “Dictatorship” to deliver the goods it promised. It was because the Bolsheviks were weak and had to depend to a large extent upon trickery that they were compelled to destroy democratic forms. Had they allowed free expression the rule of the Russian Communist Party would have been threatened right at the commencement.
When the majority of the workers in a particular country understand Socialism and, therefore, what it implies, they will proceed to introduce it once they have captured political power. To do so it will be essential to allow to all the means to express their views freely and, owing to the understanding of the majority, there will be nothing to fear from this free expression of opinion. As the majority will have control of power, any minority that is foolish enough to try to thwart the wishes of the majority will lack the means to make effective any destructive intentions.
Once Socialism is in process of being introduced the coercive sides of the present parliamentary form will become obsolete. There will be no need to “crush” as they will just disappear.