Re: capitalism/vietnam

Mon, 22 Apr 1996 23:50:23 -0400

Dear Steve,
The "dictatorship of the proletariat" was perverted as a result of the
bureacratic centralism initiated by Lenin and totally misappropriated by
Stalin. To his credit, Lenin recognized the dangers towards the end of
his life and tried to warn the Party of this. See his essays about
purging the Party,not as Stalin did but getting rid of those who got
caught up in the administrative machinery. See also his Last Testament
where he warned about Stalin and other Bolsheviks (including Trotsky)
who tended to enjoy administration.
In its original context, the "dictatorship of the proletariat" meant
that power would now be exercised in the hands of the oppressed sections
of society (the working class in classical terms) rather than the oppressive
class antagonists (military, bourgeoise etc) who would never allow the
oppressed sectors of society any freedom nor give up their power. Jack
London's prophetic novel THE IRON HEEL (1907) makes this issue clear as
well as his 1916 resignation from the Socialist Party where he criticizes
it for lack of fighting spirit.
The "dictatorship of the proletariat" initially meant that power would
now be in the hands of the "working class" rather than their oppressors.
Unfortunately, due to Fascist and Stalinist dictatorship, the term became
abused. No, I don't think the concept should be abandoned but refined and
adapted to new circumstances in a dialectical way. Do you think Rupert
Murdoch should be allowed to maintain his dangerous control of the media
throughout the world? The "dictatorship of the proletariat" principle would
mean that his power would be removed and distributed to people and groups
normally deprived of a voice in the affairs of their society. Similarly,
the four year election farce where money and personality dominate need
radical change so that alternative voices gain representation and those
manipulating sincere voices for change (e.g. Slick Willy) are prevented
from ever doing so again. Naturally, this will not occur without a struggle.
But the "concept" means power being in the hands of oppressed groups under
capitalism rather than their oppressors who dominate them by physical,
economic, anmd ideological means. However, there is the danger that power
corrupts. Alternatively, in the early Bolshevik era the idea of worker's
Soviets was spoken of and crushed. A one-party dictatorship is not the
logical outcome of "the dictatorship of the proletariat." It can lead to that,
unfortunately, but d/p does not necessarily have to lead to that.
Ironically, in an era of downsizing and widening gap between rich and
poor much of the so-called classical Marxism is now becoming very relevant
again. However, this does not mean repeating the mistakes of the past but
learning from them, and applying concepts in new, different, circumstances,
which Marx, Engels, and Lenin never envisaged.
Perhaps, this is time to return to studying the lost legacy of American
Socialism which was ruthlessly crushed in its time by the "dictatorship of
the capitalists."
Tony Williams