On the Dictatorship of the Proletariat
October 22, 2022
The Psychosis of Anti-Theory
Revolutionary socialists are often accused, by the right, of having a lust for violence and a lack of concern about corruption. For example, in his debate with Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek, Jordan Peterson states:
Marx had this crazy idea… a dictatorship of the proletariat [that] could come about… the first stage in... a bloody violent revolution and the overthrow of all… existing social structures.
Now, this claim is only partially correct in that revolutionary socialists do see that revolution, even violent revolution, is a likely aspect of the development of socialism . However, this violence is not the goal of revolutionary socialism but rather the concern of the socialist party, and it is here where we must first distinguish that one’s concern is not one’s goal. I am concerned with ensuring that the engine in my car runs well, but my goal is to drive to my destination. Revolutionary socialism would be a total misnomer if the term ‘socialism’ didn’t gesture, somewhat weakly, at its actual goal. This goal is the dictatorship of the proletariat, the rule of the proletariat first over capitalism and then over whatever society may come after.
Here, the socialist party is revolutionary because this goal, the dictatorship of the proletariat, necessitates a revolutionary understanding of violence, production, political association, and theory. But people fixate on violence, whether they view revolution as horror or an opportunity for revenge.
For a proper revolutionary socialist movement, revolution does not serve as a moment of revenge or even mere apotheosis. Rather, revolutionary socialists concern themselves with revolution because capitalism necessarily produces crises followed by counter-revolutionary cycles that demand working-class intervention. Suppose there is no such intervention by some section of the working class during the crisis. In that case, the counter-revolutionary threat is far greater than it could be. Capitalism produces these crises with or without the implementation of the dictatorship of the proletariat. Further, any such movement out of capitalism will encounter at least the crises created by its own self-substantiation --- that is, crises occur with or without our intervention, and the exit ramp from this cycle of crises that we propose also necessitates at least one crisis more. To be a socialist, to seek the dictatorship of the proletariat, one must be revolutionary as a matter of course --- it is not for bloodlust or justice or love or any other high ideal that one must be revolutionary: simple enlightened pragmatism will do.
But what of this dictatorship itself? What kind of thing is it? For many opposed to the socialist movement, this dictatorship is not only not a goal but something to be opposed. If we go back to Peterson: