My conclusion is that "authoritarian" socialism is not really socialism at all. At best
it may represent the rule of organization that may (or may not) aspire to bring about the rule of the working class as a class. If
it aspires to bring about the rule of the working class, then it may (or may not) succeed.
I will make an attempt to keep my post here short, but if any readers are interested, I have written about these topics at length in many articles on my website
(and my RevLeft blog
) that use clear and simple language.TOR
It is good to cautious about such things. There are two issues here:
(1) Whether a revolutionary mass organization should attempt to take power in conditions where it may not have the stable support of the majority of society
(ie: conditions that will always more-or-less correspond to the need for the rule of a single organization
with the ability to suppress criticism
in whatever way it considers necessary) must be based on a sober and realistic assessment
of whether it would be possible to win stable majority support within a relatively short period.
Lenin, as I understand it, would not have organized the insurrection against the provisional government in October 1917 if it had been certain at the time that it would not be possible to link up with a successful revolution in Germany. Unfortunately, the revolution in Germany was crushed. Now Lenin and the Bolsheviks were in a tough spot. By 1921 the Bolsheviks were deeply unpopular
and democratic rights had to be suspended
throughout Russia (including within
the Bolshevik party) in order to survive in these extreme conditions
. Lenin understood that, in such conditions, the party could easily degenerate
(and he called this "the real and main danger"
in his last major speech before the party at the 11th Congress in 1922). And that is precisely what happened.
Does this mean that the revolutionary mass organization should never
take power in conditions where it may only have minority support
for a prolonged period? Not necessarily. But we must understand that, in modern conditions, such a revolution is highly likely to fail and either be crushed externally
(ie: like the German revolution in the 1920's) or suffocated internally
(ie: bonapartism: as happened in France in the 1790's and Russia in the 1920's).
My study of Lenin indicated that, by 1921, he had come to the conclusion that it would be necessary for the Bolsheviks to suppress the independent voice of the working class for ten or twenty years
(ie: until economic conditions could be improved and the mass of the population was less unhappy). During that period (ie: in which the working class would not
have the ability to independently organize
against the incompetence, hypocrisy and corruption that would inevitably emerge in the ruling party) the party was vulnerable to degeneration
. And, after Lenin died, that is exactly what happened.
(2) Aside from the question of whether it might (or might not) be advisable for a revolutionary mass organization to take power in conditions where it would not
have majority support (ie: and would
need to suppress the independent voice of the working class) there is the far simpler
and vastly more important
issue of developing a clear understanding of the nature of our goal (ie: the nature of revolutionary society).
The great emphasis on taking power in conditions where the revolutionary state does not have popular support and is for this reason compelled to create a police state
(ie: revolutionary martial law) serves to great an enormous cloud of confusion concerning the nature of workers' rule.
Until we can clear up this cloud of confusion--we will never
be able to create a revolutionary movement in the economically developed countries that is deserving of the attention, respect and loyalty of the working class.
Finally, since I know that these topics are often difficult for many readers, I include (please see below) some charts that I have created in recent polemics to illustrate some of these ideas.
(readers: click here
to view full-size image)