Why did the Russian proletariat revolt?

The dictatorship of the proletariat

The dictatorship of the proletariat

1 Introduction

“The policy of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany is aimed at the all-round strengthening of the socialist state of workers and peasants as a form of the dictatorship of the proletariat. (...) The dictatorship of the proletariat (...) will for the first time bring democracy to the people (...) any use of force as well as all democratic rights and freedoms, for example freedom of the press and assembly, the right to freedom Expression of opinion (...) serves the working people under socialism. "[1]

In 1989, authors of a GDR textbook characterized the implementation of the dictatorship of the proletariat. A few months later, the state that saw this concept as the essential basis of its existence no longer existed. With the end of the GDR, a dogma that should be the starting point for creating a better world also seems obsolete. In Karl Marx's theory, the dictatorship of the proletariat was the necessary transition period between capitalist and communist society.

Almost a decade and a half later, the capitalist social system presents itself as the victor in the system conflict. Some philosophers already see the "end of history".[2] Nevertheless, the term plays an important role in the political discussion. An analysis of the term is therefore definitely worthwhile. The present work aims to answer the question:

Were the characteristic features of the real socialist model of society already rooted in the conceptual foundation, the theory of the dictatorship of the proletariat?

In the political theories of Marx, Lenin and Stalin, the dictatorship of the proletariat forms the main foundation of their social visions. Therefore it is first necessary to understand the origin, history and transformation of this term.

At the same time, specific historical consequences that are related to the respective interpretation of the term are to be highlighted. The special interpretation of the dictatorship of the proletariat in the GDR is discussed in more detail.

Then different interpretations of this term are examined in order to analyze the meaning of this doctrine for the development of real socialist society, especially the GDR.

2. The emergence and transformation of the term in a historical context

2.1. The dictatorship of the proletariat as a preliminary stage to communism - Karl Marx

The term originally comes from the French socialist Louis-Auguste Blanqui (1805-1881). For him, the dictatorship of the proletariat included all measures to spread communism.[3] As early as 1850, Karl Marx (1818-1883) adopted the formulation in a newspaper article about the class struggle in France. The starting point is the definition of all previous forms of government as organized violence of one class to oppress another.[4] The first step of a proletarian revolution must be the conquest of state power by the wage-dependent majority. The proletariat organizes itself as a political class that oppresses another, namely the bourgeoisie. Marx describes this political rule of wage workers as the dictatorship of the proletariat.

A dictatorship is necessary to secure the achievements of the revolution. In concrete terms, this means: to guarantee the suppression of the politically defeated but economically strong bourgeoisie under the protection of political power. In addition, the working class should be educationally influenced. The most important task, however, is the dissolution of class differences through the transformation of the economic institutions of capitalism, i.e. the abolition of capitalist relations of production. For Marx, dictatorship is therefore a means of revolutionizing society. The difference between the dictatorship of the proletariat and the previous dictatorships is that it is not aimed at maintaining class rule, but at its abolition and thus at the social foundations of the state in general.

The consequence of this theory is that for Marx the dictatorship of the proletariat only covers a certain period of time: “Between capitalist and communist society lies the period of transformation of one into the other. This also corresponds to a transition period, the state of which cannot be anything other than the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat. "[5] In the Paris Commune of 1871 Marx saw the realization of the dictatorship of the proletariat for the first time in history.

This conception thus differs from both the reformist concepts, which strive to grow into socialism by parliamentary means, as well as from the ideas of the anarchists, who plead for the immediate abolition of the state.

The contrary views between Karl Marx and the anarchists around Michael Bakunin (1814-1876) on the transition strategy to the classless future society led to the split in the 1st International Workers' Association. The association was founded in 1864 with the aim of achieving the emancipation of the working class. It formed a loose alliance of independent national groups in which all ideological orientations of socialism were united and which, despite their international claim to autonomy, insisted.[6] Marx quickly assumed a central role in the General Council and used this position to propagate his theses on scientific socialism. The conflict broke out when Marx passed resolutions at a secret conference in 1871 that contradicted the statutes. Thus the autonomy of the sections was abolished and the General Council was given dictatorial powers. The principle of the dictatorship of the proletariat was established as the only correct one. Bakunin and the representatives of France, Italy, Belgium and the USA rejected the resolutions. Instead, they formulated: "The Internationale, the embryo of future human society, is required (...) to exclude from its interior every principle that strives for authority and dictatorship."[7]

In the fall of 1872, Bakunin and other members were expelled from the International with the help of dubious methods. Shortly afterwards Bakunin polemics against the intolerant vehemence with which Marx defends his theses: “First of all, he has the fault of all professional scholars, he is doctrinal. He absolutely believes in his theories and from the height of his theories, he despises all the world. "[8]

2.2. From the dictatorship of the proletariat to the dictatorship of the Bolsheviks - Lenin

Vladimir Ilyich Lenin (1870-1924) constantly refers to Marx in his theories and claims to be the defender of Marxism against all attempts at falsification.[9] Lenin considers the idea of ​​the dictatorship of the proletariat to be "one of the most significant and important theories of Marxism."[10] However, it is precisely on the question of the dictatorship of the proletariat that there are differences between Lenin's theory and Marx's intentions. This is clear from two examples:

A first contrast is the path to the dictatorship of the proletariat, the revolution. While Karl Marx prophesies the development of a revolutionary consciousness of the proletariat due to increasing impoverishment under capitalism,[11] Lenin claims that the working class cannot develop this consciousness out of itself.

Second, the differences between the two become clear, on the question of the political formation of the dictatorship of the proletariat. Marx propagated a council system with an imperative mandate for political representatives, civil servants and judges as well as the decentralization of political units.[12] For Lenin, the dictatorship of the proletariat does not mean the rule of the entire proletariat, but the power of a small leading group of professional revolutionaries. In his writing " What to do? ”From 1902 Lenin developed his ideas about the proletarian party as the vanguard of the working class.[13]

There are two possible reasons for the divergence between the two theorists: One motive lies in the historical situation in Russia in the 19th century. Since industrialization was only rudimentary at this time, there was hardly any wage-dependent industrial proletariat. According to Marx, however, a developed capitalism with a strong, organized working class is the prerequisite for a proletarian revolution.

Lenin recognizes this contradiction between the Marxist assumption and the real situation in Russia. For him, the solution to this dilemma lies in leading the unorganized working class through an avant-garde party. This party must not be a mass party, but must consist of the most progressive parts of the revolutionary intelligentsia. After all, according to Lenin, the doctrine of socialism is based on the philosophical, economic and political theories of educated representatives of the bourgeoisie.[14]

Lenin's second assumption, that the proletariat lacked revolutionary awareness, is related to this. The starting point is the distinction between a spontaneous and a conscious element of the proletariat. Lenin argues that the mass of the proletariat thinks only spontaneously and in union, not organized and progressive. This means that the majority of workers are “only” fighting for the improvement of wages, work and living conditions and therefore accept the existing order. But that would mean it missed its revolutionary mission. Accordingly, the lack of revolutionary awareness can only be brought into the working class from outside, through a party.[15] This party theory of Lenin is the prerequisite for the practical organization of the dictatorship of the proletariat in Russia and later in the real socialist countries. This theory was consistently implemented in the Russian Revolution of 1917.

The original bearers of the revolution were initially not Lenin and the Bolsheviks, but soldiers, sailors, peasants and workers who revolted in February 1917. Parties, programs and ideologies hardly played a role at first. Nevertheless, Lenin's party quickly took the lead in the revolutionary movement. The reasons for this were the tight organization of the party and the advantage of being able to offer the revolutionaries a self-contained ideology. In addition, its chairman was a skilled tactician. In his famous April theses, Lenin announced, among other things, the abolition of professional functionaries and the participation of grassroots democratic councils in the government. Contrary to all Bolshevik theories about the leading role of the party in the dictatorship of the proletariat, Lenin proclaimed the anarchist slogan "All power to the councils".

His work “State and Revolution”, which he finished only a few weeks earlier, proves that this slogan was a calculated maneuver by Lenin. In it he writes: “We are not utopians. We do not dream of how one (...) could do without any subordination; These anarchist dreams, which are based on a misunderstanding of the dictatorship of the proletariat, are alien to Marxism, in reality they only serve to postpone the socialist revolution until the time when people will have become different. No, we want the socialist revolution with the people as they are today, the people who will not get along without submission, without control, without overseers and accountants. "[16]

Reality then followed Lenin's theories rather than his public statements. Control by the Bolshevik Party quickly limited the councils' ability to shape politics. With the help of the secret police, the Bolsheviks installed a comprehensive apparatus to restrict civil liberties. In addition, the catastrophic economic situation caused resentment among the population. Strikes in the larger industrial centers were the result. After the protests were put down, the workers became politicized and demanded, among other things, the restoration of the free councils. The Bolsheviks eventually imposed martial law on Petrograd. In solidarity with the Petrograd workers, the 16,000 sailors from Kronstadt, the home port of the Russian Baltic Fleet, passed the so-called Petropavlovsk resolution on February 28, 1921. The main demand was the election of a new Soviet, since the current councils would not represent the will of the workers. Freedom of speech and the press, the release of political prisoners, the abolition of communist party cells for surveillance and propaganda, and the convening of an independent conference of workers, soldiers and sailors from Petrograd were also demanded.[17]

Contrary to Bolshevik propaganda, the Kronstadt sailors were neither counter-revolutionaries nor anti-communists. Their goal was a "third revolution" that would end the work of liberation. The Bolsheviks realized, however, that the Kronstadters' demands ultimately challenged their party's monopoly of rule.

On March 7, 1921, the army under General Field Marshal Leon Trotsky (1879-1940) began with the bloody suppression of the Kronstadt uprising. In the Kronstadt newspaper "Isvestia" of March 8, 1921 it was read: "The blood of the innocent will fall on the heads of the authority-drunk communist fanatics."[18] Ten days later the uprising was suppressed. "A socialism of a different kind" (ibid.) Finally came to an end.

2.3. The dictatorship of the proletariat as the foundation of authoritarian rule - Stalin

Josef Stalin (1879-1953) was elected General Secretary of the Communist Party in 1922 at the suggestion of Lenin. After the death of his sponsor he tried to fix Lenin's theories uncompromisingly. Stalin was the first to create the apodictic thought structure of Leninism. According to Isaac Deutscher, what was new about Stalin's theory was that it simplified Lenin's teaching into a series of strict rules and rules of conduct.[19] For Stalin himself, Leninism was the further development of Marxism: “Leninism is Marxism in the epoch of imperialism and the proletarian revolution. More precisely: Leninism is the theory and tactics of the proletarian revolution in general, the theory and tactics of the dictatorship of the proletariat in particular. "[20]

The basis for Stalin's theoretical considerations was his concept of “building socialism in one country”, which he first formulated in 1924. In contrast to Marx, the emergence of socialism is no longer dependent on the world revolutionary process, but is also possible in a single country.[21] The historical background lies in the lack of a socialist revolution in the industrialized countries of Europe, such as Germany. Stalin's idea had several consequences:

The realization of "socialism in one country" harbors the danger of possible aggression against the USSR from outside, but also of increasing internal opposition. Stalin deduces from this the need for the Communist Party to have greater influence as protection against these threats.

Thus he formulated that "(...) the leader of the state, the leader in the system of the dictatorship of the proletariat is a party, the party of communists, which does not and cannot share the leadership with other parties."[22] Like Lenin, Stalin initially understands the dictatorship of the proletariat as an instrument of revolution, but immediately emphasizes its real main task, the safeguarding of power. In contrast to Lenin, with Stalin the dictatorship of the proletariat is not a temporary phenomenon, but encompasses an entire historical epoch and must be understood as a form of government.[23] A party's claim to power as the leader of the working class arises from the inability of the proletariat to wage organized struggle against the enemies of the revolution. The working class can only do this under the leadership of its avant-garde.[24] The mass organizations play an essential role in asserting the Communist Party's claim to power in Stalin's dictatorship of the proletariat. These serve as “transmissions” to all areas of society. Stalin frankly admits his authoritarian leadership system, which is based on strict instructions from top to bottom: “The highest expression of the leading role of the party (...) must be described as the fact that not a single important political or organizational question is raised by our Soviet or mass organizations are decided without leading instructions from the party. "[25]

The implementation of the theoretically formulated claim to power of the party in society has practical effects. During his lectures at Sverdlov University in April 1924, the party could only fulfill its role as a leading and guiding force in society if it formed a unified system, the resolutions of which were binding on all party members. Criticism of this centralized party organization he describes as "Russian nihilism" and "noble anarchism".[26] The disciplining of the party began a few years before Stalin actually came to power, but he continued it consistently.

The Kronstadt uprising again played a decisive role. The uprising broke out just before the start of the Communist Party's 10th Congress. Originally, the different political currents within the party were supposed to discuss their goals during the party congress.

Due to the revolt, however, the delegates decided to forbid any formation of factions in order to guarantee the unity and leadership role of the party. For Hans-Joachim Lieber, the 10th party congress is the starting point for the organizational structure of the CPSU, which is becoming more totalitarian. All subsequent events, such as the elimination of the internal party opposition, the ideological disputes between Bolshevik leaders and ultimately the show trials of the 1930s must be seen against the background of this party congress resolution.[27]

In fact, representatives of different views were denounced and condemned as right and left deviants and thus as traitors to the unity of the party. In 1927, with the help of Grigory Zinoviev and Lev Kamenev, Stalin expelled his rival Leon Trotsky from the CPSU. His theory of the “permanent revolution” was in contrast to Stalin's “building socialism in one country”. In 1928 Trotsky was exiled to Kazakhstan, expelled from the Soviet Union in 1929 and murdered in 1940 in exile in Mexico on Stalin's orders. Kamenev and Zinoviev were executed in 1936 as part of the "Tschiska". Zinoviev's successor was Nikolai Bukharin, who was convicted of “deviating from the law” in the third major Moscow show trial and executed in 1938. The number of party members arrested from 1936 to 1939 is estimated at 1.2 million.[28] In his report to the 18th party congress of the CPSU on March 10, 1939, Stalin summed up: “After the party had destroyed the enemies of the people and cleared the party and Soviet organization of degenerate elements, it became even more uniform in its political and organizational work, concluded even closer together around their Central Committee. "[29]

The Marxist ideology of the liberation of the proletariat thus mutated into the justification of dictatorial measures against Soviet society. The goal was no longer a democratic, state-transcending policy, but the consolidation of the autocratic dictatorship of party leaders and bureaucrats in the name of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

2.4. The dictatorship of the proletariat as the basis of legitimation for the GDR

The concept of the dictatorship of the proletariat was the ideological basis for the social system of the GDR. A political reference work of the GDR from 1973 emphasizes that "the establishment and permanent consolidation of the dictatorship of the proletariat is a general law of the socialist revolution."[30] The prerequisite for the realization of the dictatorship of the proletariat is leadership by the Marxist-Leninist party. The basis of this claim to leadership is Lenin's party theory, which he developed in 1902 in his book "Was tun?" In 1955 the propaganda department of the SED paid tribute to Lenin's work: "He worked out - for the first time in the history of Marxism - the doctrine of the party as the leading organization of the proletariat and founded (...) the new type of party."[31] As early as May 1948, the SED had declared itself a new type of party. Since the party unites the best elements of the working class, only it can recognize the laws of social development and thus fulfill its leading role, the first party conference determined a few months later[32] In 1968 the SED's claim to leadership was enshrined in Article 1 of the constitution.

This made it necessary for the SED to function simultaneously as a cadre and mass party. The filling of state functions with party members required a mass party. In order not to give up its claim as a revolutionary avant-garde at the same time, however, it remained a cadre party by delegating the formulation of goals, strategies and their control not to the mass of party members, but to a hierarchically structured party apparatus. Gert-Joachim Glaeßner rightly remarks that the SED secures its status as an elitist cadre party by reproducing the "hierarchical relationship between the party and the working class in the party organization."[33]

The SED leadership realized its claim to power over simple party members and within society through the principle of democratic centralism. This method should combine the definitive implementation of the resolutions from top to bottom with broad intra-party participation by party members.[34] A textbook for the Marxist-Leninist basic study explains: “The experience of socialist construction shows that the promotion of initiative and activity of the masses is best served when at the same time the necessary state authority is used to assert the interests of the To ensure the working class. "[35] The supposed democratic legitimation of this authoritarianism lay in the apparently free eligibility of the governing bodies. However, this became relatively meaningless due to the principle of management policy:

In GDR language usage, cadres were "personalities (...) who are active as functionaries and specialists in all areas of society due to their political, professional, etc. skills and characteristics (...)"[36] By filling all relevant positions with its own management staff, the SED gained comprehensive control over society. In order to maintain the fiction of participation of the population in political decision-making processes, the party used the concept of socialist democracy. This is expressed above all in the fact that, based on the foundation of the dictatorship of the proletariat, it enables the working people to work democratically in all areas of society.[37] However, this possibility of participation is rendered ineffective by the restriction that socialist democracy does not override the "central management and planning, individual management and disciplined implementation of instructions and decisions taken (...)"[38]. Democratic centralism, cadre politics and socialist democracy were the functional principles with which the SED realized its leading role in society. At the same time the contradiction between the supposedly realized dictatorship of the proletariat and the real existing rule of a small party elite could be resolved.

3. On the interpretation of the concept between apologetics and rejection

3.1. The dictatorship of the proletariat as interpreted before 1990

Michael Bakunin presented himself as one of the first critics of the theory of the dictatorship of the proletariat. Looking ahead, in 1872 he analyzed the doctrine of the dictatorship of the proletariat as "the dictatorship of a very strong, despotic, government"[39]. Marx theory means nothing other than the "(...) the administration of a majority by a minority in the name of the alleged stupidity of the former and the alleged wisdom of the latter."[40]

For the Russian anarchist, however, that was the negation of freedom.

In view of the centralism and cadre policy of the Russian Bolsheviks, Rosa Luxemburg (1871-1919) analyzed: “Without general elections, unrestrained freedom of press and assembly, and free struggle of opinion, life in every public institution dies out, becomes a pseudo-life in which the bureaucracy alone is active Element remains. (...) An elite of the working class is summoned to meetings from time to time to applaud the speeches of the leaders, to unanimously approve the resolutions presented, basically a clique economy - a dictatorship, however, not the dictatorship of the proletariat, but the one Dictatorship of a handful of politicians, (...) "[41] Both Lenin and Stalin defamed their stance as "Luxemburgism".

After the Soviet model was implemented in the former Soviet Zone, two trends can be identified in West German GDR research. The representatives of the method of totalitarianism orientate themselves on the norms of the FRG, which are absolutely contrary to the standards of the GDR. Carl Joachim Friedrich takes the view that the putative dictatorship of the proletariat can basically be compared with the National Socialist dictatorship.

The similarities between the two dictatorships include, among other things, the total control of society by an official ideology, a mass party and the news monopoly, according to the scientist in a publication from 1957.[42]

On the other hand, the supporters of the systemic method viewed the GDR as a sui generis political system, that is, as one alongside other possible forms of social organization. Objectivity should be guaranteed by deliberately avoiding a valuation. Gert-Joachim Glaeßner complained that the anti-communist-motivated division of the world into good and bad by the totalitarian theorists prevented a differentiated view of the GDR.[43] Peter Christian Ludz also noted a change from a totalitarian to an authoritarian society after Stalin's death. On the one hand, the party's claim to leadership has been retained, on the other hand, this rule is increasingly being enforced on the basis of agreements.[44] Ludz described the GDR system of the 1960s as "consultative authoritarianism". What is meant is the involvement of experts in the management of economic and social processes by the political elite.[45]

Criticism of the system of dictatorship of the proletariat was also expressed by Marxists, with the aim of overcoming the discrediting of the "real" by the "real" socialism. The Yugoslav philosopher Svetozar Stojanovic described the real socialist system as statism as early as 1950: “In this type of organization, principles such as centralism, hierarchy, discipline, monolithic unity (...) predominate and the principles of decentralization, diversity, individual rights, the Initiative, democracy and the confrontation of ideas completely. "[46] This form of the dictatorship of the proletariat did not mean the realization of Marxism, but was in reality the ideology of a new ruling class, he summed up in August 1989.[47]

The official Marxist-Leninist analysis of the dictatorship of the proletariat by Panajot Gindev in 1973 deserves special attention. According to the editor in the foreword, the aim is to defend this principle against "the ideologues of the imperialist bourgeoisie."[48] Interestingly, the critical Marxist and social democratic reception of the term is the main goal of his argument. The starting point is the statement that the dictatorship of the proletariat is a central prerequisite for social progress. Quoting Lenin, the author observes that "who is not a socialist who expects the realization of socialism without the socialist revolution and without the dictatorship of the proletariat."[49] The extraordinary importance of this theory for the transition to communism makes it the most important point of attack for anti-communists.[50] Gindev meticulously explains the main lines of argument against the dictatorship of the proletariat.

The basis of the revisionist criticism is the juxtaposition of Marx and Lenin. Lenin's principle of the dictatorship of the proletariat contradicts the humanistic content of Marxism. This thesis is justified by the fact that Marx and Engels only used the term accidentally in their works. Gindev tries to refute the alleged contradiction by establishing that the concept of the dictatorship of the proletariat in Marx is not an accidental phrase, but a central thesis. With a series of quotations, the author proves the genesis of the term in Marx's works.[51] The significance of the dictatorship of the proletariat becomes clear in Marx's fight against anarchism and his ideas of the transition from capitalism to communism. The rejection of the dictatorship of the proletariat and the instead demanded immediate formation of an unruly society through the free federation of individuals, Marx described as political adventurism.[52] According to Gindev, this shows that a separation of Marxism from the dictatorship of the proletariat is impossible. With the help of the dictatorship of the proletariat, Marx transformed socialism from a utopia into a science.[53]

For Gindev, Lenin's “world historical merit” is to have recognized and developed Marx's theory as the only scientific method.[54] In Lenin's work, the concept changed from political theory to the main practical task of the working class.[55]

In Lenin's interpretation of Marxism, bourgeois critics diagnose political violence, anti-pluralism and the elimination of democracy in the system of the dictatorship of the proletariat.[56] From the rejection of the principle follows the rejection of the leading role of the Marxist-Leninist party and the principle of democratic centralism. The author counters the accusation of violence with the need to react to attempts at restoration of capitalism. The demands for democracy and pluralization as well as the rejection of the leading role of the communist party are a transparent maneuver of the democrats to replace the communists through elections and to forbid Marxism-Leninism.[57] Gindev fears: "If the Communist Party does not take the lead in a certain sector of political life, another political or social group will emerge and begin to play that role."[58] The consequences of this development would be events like 1968 in Czechoslovakia.

Another thesis, especially by social democrats, is the propagation of socialism without the dictatorship of the proletariat. The derivation of the dictatorship of the proletariat from the class struggle between workers and bourgeoisie is a myth for which there is no basis in differentiated, modern industrial societies.[59] Instead, the aim is to achieve socialism within the framework of bourgeois democracy. What is called for is a "socialism without the dictatorship of the proletariat, without the leading role of the working class and the communist party, a socialism of" full "democracy and" absolute "freedom, (...)[60]

Gindev refers to historical experiences which show the impossibility of socialism without the dictatorship of the proletariat. In no western European country with a social democratic government has socialism been established. On the contrary: the Social Democrats turned into apologists for capitalism.[61] The USSR as a "powerful industrial and agricultural country with a flourishing economy, science, art and culture (...)[62], on the other hand, prove the success of the economic-organizational and cultural-educational function of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

The author sums up that the concepts of the ideological struggle of the anti-communists have changed. Instead of the blanket rejection of socialism, with which large sections of the workers and the intelligentsia also sympathize in the capitalist countries, there are plans for socialism without the dictatorship of the proletariat. The aim is to soften socialism from within.[63] Ultimately, this is always aimed at a separation of the working class and scientific socialism.[64]

GDR sociologists dialectically resolved the contradiction between the alleged power of the proletariat and the actual rule of a party elite: “With the transfer of the means of production into social property and the political rule of the working class, with the dictatorship of the proletariat and the development of socialist democracy and enforcement the scientific worldview of Marxism-Leninism (...) the antagonism between possessing and exercising power and the possessive and ruled classes is forever abolished. (...) Socialism eliminates the rule of a majority by developing political relationships in which social relationships of superiority and subordination (...) lose their antagonistic character. "[65]. Regarding the continued existence of institutions of power it says: "The political-ideological superstructure and its institutions serve the interests of the working people under socialism and are, in character, organs of the dictatorship of the proletariat to protect the achievements of socialist construction, (...)"[66]

In summary, this argumentation means: With the change in property relations, the proletariat becomes a power-wielding class; at the same time, with the abolition of private property, the abolition of rule. The leadership of a party elite is legitimized by the fact that it is exercised on behalf of the working class. According to this point of view, there are organs of power, but they no longer exercise power. This is made possible by a semantically complex distinction between power and domination.[67] The question remains unanswered as to why the working class, as the declared owner of the means of production, cannot directly exercise its property rights. As a result, Glaeßner recognizes: "The vast majority of the population, especially since the working class, which is recognized as having a 'leading role' in society, is only involved in the management of society insofar as it is a matter of fulfilling specified objectives. (...) The chance to participate in social decision-making processes is (...) preformed by cadre-political selection and testing mechanisms. "[68]

3.2. The dictatorship of the proletariat after the end of the system conflict

Two extremely contradicting positions are exemplary for the heated debate about the “correct” analysis of GDR history. On the one hand, a work-up dominates, the aim of which is complete delegitimization. Through targeted simplification, the GDR becomes the second German dictatorship[69] and on an equal footing with National Socialism.[70] In this context, the renaissance of the theory of totalitarianism is noteworthy, as is practiced by the SED State Research Association at the Free University of Berlin. A closer look should be dispensed with here. It should be mentioned, however, that the totalitarianism thesis also serves to disguise the share of the political center, especially the conservatives, in National Socialism and to enhance their position on the fight against totalitarianism.

On the other hand, there is a euphemistic reception of GDR history, albeit marginalized. Their failure is transfigured with the temporary victory of capitalism or the counter-revolution in the system conflict. The cause of the defeat of socialism were sabotage, sanctions, political, economic and ideological infiltration on the part of the capitalist states.[71] Internal causes such as enormous democratic deficits, the inability to reform and a dogmatic fixation on the political-ideological basis of legitimation are deliberately ignored.

The KPD, which was re-established in the GDR in January 1990, defined the re-establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat according to the principles of “the outstanding theorist, politician and organizer of socialism, J.W. Stalin "[72], as one of their most important goals. From this perspective, not only the theory but also the practical design of the dictatorship of the proletariat in the GDR met with approval.

In 1999 the party notes that the foundations of Marxism-Leninism

"Because of their scientific nature and confirmation in practice of the objectively proceeding processes, they do not require any further evidence and are in no way available."[73] The end of the dictatorship of the proletariat came with the XX. Congress of the CPSU and the imperialist-revisionist lies about the political activities of J.W. Stalin's, “started.[74]

Marxists express themselves more differently, such as Manfred Behrend, who defends this theory but criticizes that a dictatorship of the proletariat has been prevented by the extreme expansion of the party apparatus.[75] The dictatorship of the proletariat must not be a bureaucratic Leviathan, but must be a community controlled by the working masses, which has no people to direct, but to administer things and which will die out in the near future.[76]

The council communists are opposed to a dictatorship of the proletariat based on Lenin's misinterpretation of Marxism. Instead of party rule, only the direct participation of the population through direct democracy would lead to communism, said the Dutch councilor communist Cajo Brendel in 1994[77]

The anarchists go one step further and see Marx's doctrine as the cause of the later failure. The necessity of establishing a dictatorship of the proletariat is disputed. In every dictatorial organization the germ for a new authoritarian society is contained.[78] Instead of a dictatorship of the proletariat, anarchists favor the principle of a decentralized, direct democratic society, in which people act independently and without hierarchy.[79]

Political scientist Gerhard Göhler criticizes that Marx, instead of advancing the humanistic potential of bourgeois democracy, favored proletarian rule.[80] The utopian goal of an unspecified future society justifies a dictatorship that puts the achievements of democracy up for grabs. The theory of the dictatorship of the proletariat thus legitimized the politics of the authoritarian regimes in the 20th century, according to Göhler in 1993.[81]

In a brochure from the CSU-affiliated Hans Seidel Foundation, the Chemnitz political scientist Eckhard Jesse welcomes the comeback of the totalitarian approach after 1990.[82] Jesse criticizes that the GDR has been received too positively since the 1970s thanks to the supposedly dominant systemic method. In the future, the embellished GDR perspective would have to be revised in order to document the unjust character of this state.[83]

In his book “Der SED-Staat”, Klaus Schroeder also criticizes the dogmatic Marxism of influential, left-liberal GDR researchers in the old FRG. Political strategies, such as Brand's policy of détente, contributed to suppressing the analysis of “conservative outsiders” in political science.[84] For Schroeder, the GDR was not the realization of the dictatorship of the proletariat, but a socialist party dictatorship which, in its development, carried out the change from a violent totalitarian to a “late totalitarian supply and surveillance state”.[85]

Despite all the differences between the analyzes shown, there is one thing in common: the inevitable dependence of the different interpretations on the interpreters' political preferences. Both the lack of any self-criticism among the unconditional adherents of this dogma, as well as the self-righteous winning mentality of the supposed history winners make an objective observation difficult.

4. Summary

To answer the question posed at the beginning, to what extent the dogma of the dictatorship of the proletariat was the motive for phenomena and ultimately the failure of the real socialist model of society, there are three options: The cause for the failure of the practice is not the theory considered correct, but others , external factors identified. Another argument could be to criticize the falsification of the correct theory by Lenin or Stalin as the reason for the misguided socialist practice. The third possibility would be to recognize the entire theoretical structure of the dictatorship of the proletariat, as it was already developed by Marx, as the cause of a failed social alternative.

There are a number of reasons in favor of the latter assumption. Lenin and Stalin are certainly responsible for the indisputable dogmatization and deformation of the model. Lenin's party theory was a model for the organization of society in the GDR. The adaptation of the theory by Lenin was only possible because in Marx's original ideology, aspects of freedom were rather vague, while elitist and authoritarian elements were conclusively justified.

It is Panayot Gindev to fully agree with the apologist of this dogma when he rejects a separation from Marx and Lenin. Logically, albeit with a different intention, Gindev justifies the fundamental congruence of the ideas of Marx and Lenin. The transformation of the First International from a federative union into a hierarchically structured apparatus, as well as the uncompromising attitude towards other socialist conceptions, set fateful precedents to which later ideologues such as Lenin, Stalin and SED politicians could refer.

The avant-garde claim of a party to be the bearer of social progress, which is immanent in Marx and fixed in Leni's party theory, already entails the establishment of presumptuous rule. The claim to the absolute scientific nature of his hypotheses also immunized him and his successors from any criticism.

The GDR's political leadership was unable to critically reflect on its fragile, ideological axiom. With the help of theory, the party leadership apparently conclusively legitimized its own claim to power and thus did not even do justice to the theoretical claim of the dictatorship of the proletariat to be the rule of the working majority. The result is that currently every socialist conception of society seems discredited.

The GDR system failed not only because of its ideological basis. The economic superiority and political pressure of capitalism should not be underestimated. However, according to Peter von Oertzen rightly, the lower standard of living in the GDR would have found acceptance if it had been offset by greater opportunities for development and more democracy.[86]

The apparent failure of the theory of the dictatorship of the proletariat, however, should not lead to a priori excluding other ideas of society. Representative parliamentary democracy is often viewed as the best possible collection of established principles, because there are apparently no alternatives. However, the opportunities for participation of the formally politically equal citizens in the FRG are in need of considerable improvement.

Karl Marx's analysis of the capitalist system, regardless of the weaknesses of his other theories, is still topical. Anyone who denies the struggle of classes in modern industrial society is deliberately ignoring the campaign hidden by euphemisms such as “reform” and “modernization”, by industry and banks against the social achievements of the workers.

The attempt to change reality with the help of the ideal of a society in which people act in a self-determined manner is legitimate and must not be degraded to a pure utopia. The objectives range from “democratic socialism”, as Bundestag President Wolfgang Thierse called for it in the “Spiegel” interview in August 2003,[87] up to direct democracy as a counter-concept to parliamentarism.

One thing is certain, however: a just future society cannot be based on communist party rule, which is euphemistically labeled as the dictatorship of the proletariat.


[1] Collective of authors of the Academy of Social Sciences at the Central Committee of the SED: “Introduction to Marxist-Leninist Philosophy”, Berlin (GDR), 1989, pp. 403f

[2] Fukuyama, Francis: “The End of History”, Munich, 1992

[3] see Göhler, Gerhard / Klein, Ansgar: “Political Theories of the 19th Century” in: Lieber, Hans-Joachim: “Political Theories from Antiquity to the Present”, Bonn, 1993, p. 485

[4] see: Marx, Karl / Engels, Friedrich: "The Manifesto of the Communist Party.", 36th edition, Berlin (GDR), 1973, p. 56

[5] Marx, Karl: “Critique of the Gotha Program 1875” in MEW 19, Berlin (GDR), 1956, p.28

[6] see Müller, Helmut and others: "Schlaglichter der Weltgeschichte", Bonn, 1994, p. 323

[7] quoted from: Stowasser, Horst: “Pure freedom. The idea of ​​anarchism, history and future. ”, Frankfurt a.M. 1995, p.215

[8] quoted from: Braun, Eberhard / Heine, Felix: “Politische Philosophie”, 6th edition, Hamburg, 1989, p. 293

[9] see Lenin: “State and Revolution” in www.marxistische-bibliothek.de/leninstaat.html (June 19, 2003), p.3

[10] Lenin: “State and Revolution” in www.marxistische-bibliothek.de/leninstaat.html (June 19, 2003), p.12

[11] In his early works, Marx also sees the conquest of state power as the work of a few communists. His concept of overthrow by a revolutionary minority later fades into the background. See: Göhler, Gerhard / Klein, Ansgar: "Political Theories of the 19th Century" in: Lieber, Hans-Joachim: "Political Theories from Antiquity to the Present", Bonn, 1993, p. 537

[12] see Göhler, Gerhard / Klein, Ansgar: "Political Theories of the 19th Century" in: Lieber, Hans-Joachim: "Political Theories from Antiquity to the Present", Bonn, 1993, p. 538

[13] see: Lenin: “What to do?” in: www.marxists.org/deutsch/archiv/lenin/1902/wastun/kap3e.htm

[14] See Lieber, Hans-Joachim: “On the theory of totalitarian rule” in Lieber, Hans-Joachim (Ed.): “Political Theories from Antiquity to the Present”, Bonn, 1999, p. 913

[15] see: Lenin: “What to do?” in: www.marxists.org/deutsch/archiv/lenin/1902/wastun/kap3e.htm

[16] Lenin: "State and Revolution" in www.marxistische-bibliothek.de/leninstaat.html, p.26, (19.06.2003),

[17] see: Gietinger, Klaus: "The Kronstadt Commune" in: www.bone-net.de/kronstadt3.htm (25.08.2003)

[18] quoted from: Stowasser, Horst: “Pure freedom. The idea of ​​anarchism, history and future. ”, Frankfurt a.M. 1995, p.269

[19] see: Deutscher, Isaac: "Stalin - A Political Biography." Berlin 1990, p. 353

[20] Stalin, Josef: "Questions of Leninism." Berlin (GDR) 1951, 5th edition, p. 10

[21] see: ibid. p.169 ff

[22] ibid. p. 144

[23] see: ibid. p. 41

[24] see: ibid. p. 148

[25] ibid. p. 151

[26] see: ibid. p. 91

[27] cf.: Lieber, Hans-Joachim: "On the theory of totalitarian rule." in: Lieber, Hans-Joachim (Ed.): "Political Theories from Antiquity to the Present", Bonn, 1993, p. 923

[28] see: Meyer, Fritjof: "The disaster of communism - from Marx to Gorbachev." in: Spiegel Spezial, Hamburg, 1991, p.69

[29] Stalin, Josef: "Questions of Leninism." Berlin (GDR), 1951, 5th edition, p. 712

[30] Author collective: "Small Political Dictionary." Berlin (GDR), 1973, 2nd edition, p. 169

[31] Propaganda Department of the Central Committee of the SED: “Theses on the 35th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of Germany.” In: Marx-Engels-Lenin-Stalin-Institut (Ed.): “On the history of the Communist Party of Germany.” Berlin (GDR) , 1955, 2nd edition, p.446

[32] see: “The next tasks of the SED” adopted at the first party conference of the SED, 25th to 28th. January 1949. in: Schroeder, Klaus: “The SED State. History and structures of the GDR. ”Munich, 1999, 2nd edition p. 664

[33] Glaeßner, Gert-Joachim: "The other German republic - society and politics in the GDR.", Opladen 1989, p. 98

[34] cf.: Author collective: "Kleines Politischesverzeichnis." Berlin (GDR), 1973, 2nd edition, p. 149

[35] Collective of authors: “Scientific Communism. Textbook for Marxist-Leninist Basic Studies ”, 9th edition, Berlin (GDR), 1985, p. 358

[36] Aßmann, Georg / Eichhorn, Wolfgang .: "Dictionary of Marxist-Leninist Sociology.", Berlin (GDR), 1977, p.325

[37] Collective of authors: “Scientific Communism. Textbook for Marxist-Leninist Basic Studies ”, 9th edition, Berlin (GDR), 1985, p. 354 f

[38] ibid.

[39] Bakunin, Michael: “Statehood and Anarchy”, Heidelberg, 1972, p.770

[40] quoted from: Stowasser, Horst: “Pure freedom. The idea of ​​anarchism, history and future. ”, Frankfurt a.M. 1995, p.216

[41] Luxemburg, Rosa: "Selected speeches and writings." Berlin (GDR), 2nd edition, 1955, p. 363

[42] see: Glaeßner, Gert-Joachim: “Socialist Systems. Introduction to communism and GDR research. ”Opladen, 1982, p.58 f

[43] see: ibid. p. 64 ff

[44] see: Ludz; Peter Christian: “The changing party elite. Functional structure, social structure of the SED leadership ”, Cologne, 1968, p.3

[45] ibid. p.324f

[46] see see: Glaeßner, Gert-Joachim: “Sozialistische Systeme. Introduction to communism and GDR research. ”Opladen, 1982, p.166 f

[47] see: Stojanovic, Svetozar in: “Die tageszeitung”, August 3, 1989, pages 11-12

[48] Gindev, Panajot: “The dictatorship of the proletariat and its 'critics'” in: Buhr, Manfred: “On the criticism of bourgeois ideology.” Berlin (GDR), 1973. p. 5

[49] ibid. p.11

[50] ibid. p.13f

[51] see ibid. p. 39 ff

[52] see ibid. pp. 45f

[53] see: ibid. page 41

[54] see: ibid. page 58

[55] see ibid. p. 63

[56] ibid. p.21

[57] see: ibid. page 74

[58] ibid. p. 75 f

[59] ibid. p.17f

[60] ibid. p.29

[61] vg. ibid. p. 71 f

[62] ibid. page 71

[63] ibid. p.15

[64] ibid. p.107f

[65] Aßmann, Georg / Eichhorn, Wolfgang .: "Dictionary of Marxist-Leninist Sociology.", Berlin (GDR), 1977, p.241

[66] ibid.

[67] see: Glaeßner, Gert-Joachim: “Socialist Systems. Introduction to communism and GDR research. ”Opladen, 1982. S. 234ff

[68] ibid. p. 238

[69] see: Eisenmann, Peter / Hirscher, Gerhard (ed.): “Balance sheet of the second German dictatorship.” Munich, 1993

[70] cf. to equate GDR - National Socialism: Bleek, Wilhelm: "DDR-Geschichte." in: Andersen, Uwe / Woyke, Wichard: "Concise dictionary of the political system of the FRG." without location information 2000, p. 128

as well as Neubert, Erhart: "Political Crimes in the GDR" in: Courtois, Stephan (Ed.): "The Black Book of Communism", Munich 1998, p. 829

[71] see: "The causes of the temporary victory of the counter-revolution." in "Program of the Communist Party of Germany" in: www.k-p-d.de/04-programm/programm1999.html (16.06.2003)

[72] Program of the KPD, decided at the 20th party congress on March 27/28, 1999 in: www. k-p-d.de (June 16, 2003)

[73] ibid.

[74] “Lessons from the history of the German labor movement.” In: Program of the KPD “, decided at the 20th party congress on March 27/28, 1999 in: www. k-p-d.de (June 16, 2003), p. 7

[75] see Behrend, Manfred: "Thinking about critical Marxism" in: www.glasnost.de/autoren/berend/kritmarx.html (April 27, 2003)

[76] see: ibid.

[77] see Brendel, Cajo: "Council democracy instead of party dictatorship" in: www.members.partisan.net/brendel/raete.html (16.06.2003)

[78] see: www.anarchie.de/main-12311.html (08/15/2003)

[79] see Burnicki, Ralf: “Anarchie als Direktdemokratie.” Moers 1998, p.76

[80] ibid. p.536

[81] see Göhler, Gerhard / Klein, Ansgar: "Political Theories of the 19th Century" in: Lieber, Hans-Joachim: "Political Theories from Antiquity to the Present", Bonn, 1993, pp. 540 f

[82] cf .: Jesse, Eckhard: "The political science research in the GDR in the Federal Republic of Germany." In: Eisenmann, Peter / Hirscher, Gerhard: "Sacrificed to the spirit of the times." The GDR in science, journalism and education. ”Munich, 199214 f

[83] ibid. p. 42 ff

[84] Schroeder, Klaus: “The SED state. History and structures of the GDR “2nd edition, Munich 1999, p. 621 ff

[85] ibid. p. 648

[86] see: von Oertzen, Peter: “System competition and downfall of real socialism” in: Helle Panke e.V. (Ed.): “Das Marxsche Gedankengut”, Berlin, 1993, p.39

[87] see: Thierse, Wolfgang in: Der Spiegel, No. 35 / August 25, 2003, p. 32