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Saturday, 18 December 2010

The SWP's Dictatorship of the Proletariat

"The revolutionary minority never controls the whole chain, because it is composed of economic factors, the actions of other political organisations, the consciousness and combativity of the working class, and manyy other elements that are either wholly or partially independent of the influence of the organised minority.
"A network of revolutionaries can have a crucial effect on the course of events, but only if it accurately gauges the way in which these other factors are shaping them, and if it tailors its actions to promote some outcomes and suppress others." - John Rees, Counterfire (ex-SWP)
Many communists and even supporters of the Labour Party had an unquestioning faith in Soviet Russia. This faith preceded the well-known outrages of Stalin. It began right at the very beginning of the communist state. Bertrand Russell (in 1920) said that "British Labour" had "testified its solidarity with Russian Communism". The blind rot had set in early. In a certain sense, socialists of all persuasions had to have faith in the "Russian experiment", at least at first. After all, despite the obvious differences, the Bolsheviks were socialists just like them.

Again, British Labour and socialists of all descriptions fell for their own vision of Russian Communism, as well as the vision fed to them by Bolshevik propagandists. What did these European and British socialists actually think of the Russian model in the early 1920s?

Firstly, they fatally misjudged what the communists meant by the phrase "dictatorship of the proletariat". (Indeed many Leftists still do!) According to Russell, the "Friends of Russia" believed that the

"dictatorship of the proletariat [was] merely a new form of representative government, in which only working men and women have votes".

Thus it was indeed a dictatorship – if of a strange kind. It was a dictatorship by the working class. Thus a dictatorship of the majority. So it wasn’t really a dictatorship at all! How could it have been a genuine and true dictatorship if millions of working-class men and women had the ‘vote’ and had political power?

That's how British socialists defined or thought of the phrase "dictatorship of the proletariat". How did the Russian communist leaders themselves define or see it? Very differently! According to Russell, such leaders

"mean the 'class-conscious' part of the proletariat, i.e., the Communist Party. He includes people by no means proletarian (such as Lenin and Tchicherin) who have the right opinions, and it excludes such wage-earners as have not the right opinions, whom he classifies as lackeys of the bourgeoisie".

Now that's still the case today. The SWP, for example, is overwhelmingly made up of middle-class professionals and middle-class students. Its Central Committee is the "class-conscious" part of both the party itself and the whole working class. And just as the Bolsheviks rejected the views of many working class people for not having the correct views, so too does the SWP. It rejects the views of the vast majority of working-class people, not just the BNP and EDL but also "Sun readers", ‘Daily Mail readers’ – basically everyone who's not Trotskyist and part of the SWP (except for Muslims, who are its revolution-fodder).

As for being "lackeys of the bourgeoisie", that’s exactly how the SWP-UAF's Martin Smith classified the EDL when he conspiratorially called it a "petit bourgeois" group which even had some ‘carpenters’ and other self-employed (petit bourgeois) members in it! So the EDL members are either "lackeys of the bourgeoisie" or they're actually bourgeois themselves! So neat. So tidy. So black and white.

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