Monday, November 20, 2017

Marx on the dictatorship of the Proletariat -

     Karl Marx wrote very little on what was to occur after the success of the Proletarian revolution.  One thing is clear:  the revolution was expected to occur in a fully developed capitalist country with a high standard of living.  The state was to be taken-over by the proletariat (or the Party acting as the vanguard of the proletariat).  The capitalist class would be expropriated; all industry would  become state-owned and state-operated (exactly how is not specified).  People would begin new forms of communal activity (exactly what kinds are not specified). Social distinctions between people would disappear. People would merge into one class.  Since the state was only an agency of one class to control another class, there would be nothing left for it to do.  The state would wither away!  Marx called this period the Dictatorship of the Proletariat.  To many Western Marxist scholars, Marx was using the word “dictatorship” rhetorically.  To them, he meant that since the capitalists had dominated the workers through the institutions of parliamentary democracy, the workers would now come to dominate these institutions. On the other hand, Marx’s use of the word “dictatorship” has been used to justify the totalitarian dictatorships that existed in “communist” countries.  (Most Americans are unaware of the vitriolic disputes that took place between American Marxists over the issue of democracy vs. dictatorship – especially over the brutal policies of Stalin in the former Soviet Union.)    

     After the transition is complete, there would be only one class --- the proletariat.  They would own all natural resources and all capital goods in common.  Since there would be no more need for imperialist wars, all feelings of nationalism would disappear.  Production would have increased to the point that people could have all of the goods they wanted (all goods would be like air is – everyone can breathe as much as they want without taking anything away from anyone else).  Alienation would be eliminated with the end of capitalism; people would produce because it brought joy and purpose to their lives.  This is the period of communism, in which each person would “produce according to his abilities and take according to his needs”. To Marx, this was the final stage of history – a stage that was certain to be reached at some time.  In that stage, there would be a new consciousness.  People would cease to be materialistic and individualistic and would become primarily concerned with the well- being of society as a whole.