The Dictatorship Of The Proletariat and Socialism
The Proletarian State

Portions of what has come to be called Marxian theory are the development of what were potent but much abbreviated statements by Marx and Engels. Such is the theory that outlines the nature and functions of the political and economic machinery to be set up immediately upon the destruction of capitalism. This machinery is known collectively as the dictatorship of the proletariat. Marx's brief reference to the necessity for such a transitional stage along the way to full communism was made in his criticism of the Gotha Program, a program of social reforms: "Between the capitalist and the communist systems of society lies the period of the revolutionary transformation of the one into the other. This corresponds to a political transition period, whose state can be nothing else but the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat."
As amplified by Lenin, the state during the dictatorship of the proletariat would be—as a state by its very nature must always be—an agency of oppression. In this particular setting it would be possessed by the proletariat (in power after the downfall of the capitalist system) and used by them to oppress the capitalist class—in fact, to destroy capitalists completely—"for there is no one else and no other way to break the resistance of the capitalist exploiters." In terms of political power, the classes have merely changed places. The bourgeoisie have lost possession of the state power and the proletariat have acquired it, the ruled have become the rulers, the expropriators have had their political power expropriated.

Democracy in the Dictatorship of the Proletariat

But this dictatorship embodies more real democracy than did the preceding bourgeois state, even though that may have been called a democracy. Democracy in the Marxian sense means the absence of restrictions on liberty. Whereas this form of democracy formerly prevailed for the capitalists (the few) and not for the workers (the many), it now prevails for the workers (the many) and not for the lingering capitalists (the few). The latter must be crushed "in order to free humanity from wage slavery; their resistance must be broken by force; it is clear that where there is suppression there is also violence, there is no liberty, no democracy. . . . Democracy for the vast majority of the people, and suppression by force, i.e., exclusion from democracy, of the exploiters and oppressors of the people—this is the modification of democracy during the transition from capitalism to communism."

The Proletarian Economy: Socialism

Certain economic features of the dictatorship of the proletariat will be strikingly similar to those of capitalist production. The external appearance of industry will have changed very little. There will have been no major changes in the industrial equipment or the technical processes of production. The one all-important change is that the capitalists' property will have been appropriated by the proletariat acting through what will then be their state.
The means of production are no longer the private property of individuals. The means of production belong to the whole society.

All citizens are here transformed into hired employees of the state, which is made up of the armed workers. All citizens become employees of one national state "syndicate." [The] scientifically educated staffs of engineers, agronomists, and so on [who have been] obeying the capitalists ... will work even better tomorrow, obeying the armed workers.

Wages Under Socialism

Laborers will work for wages, each worker receiving "for an equal quantity of labor an equal quantity of products," and "he who does not work, shall not eat." Since, as will be recalled from the Marxian theory of wages, an hour of skilled labor is the equivalent of some multiple of an hour of unskilled labor, daily wages will not be equal, but "every worker, therefore, receives from society as much as he has given it." "The first phase of communism, therefore, still cannot produce justice and equality; differences, and unjust differences, in wealth will still exist, but the exploitation of man by man will have become impossible, because it will be impossible to seize as private property the means of production, the factories, machines, land, and so on."26 This society is "one which is just emerging from capitalist society, and which therefore in all respects—economic, moral and intellectual—still bears the birthmarks of the old society from whose womb it sprung."

Preparation for the Next Stage

When such an economy, dominated by the proletarian state, has gotten into smooth operation, nonconformity by an individual will be "a rare exception, and will probably be accompanied by such swift and severe punishment (for the armed workers are men of practical life, not sentimental individuals, and they will scarcely allow anyone to trifle with them), that very soon the necessity of observing the simple, fundamental rules of everyday social life in common will have become a habit. The door will then be open for the transition from the first phase of communist society to its higher phase. . . ."