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New Left Review I/106, November-December 1977


Fernando Claudín

Democracy and Dictatorship in Lenin and Kautsky

As G. D. H. Cole rightly said in his History of Socialist Thought, after the Russian Revolution Kautsky became the ‘principal theoretical antagonist of Bolshevism’. [1] G. D. H. Cole: History of Socialist Thought, vol. v, part 1.The Dictatorship of the Proletariat, published in September 1918, and Terrorism and Communism, which appeared about a year later, are the two basic texts of the Kautskyan assault on Bolshevism. Moreover, this was not confined to the theoretical plane: Kautsky also played a leading role in the concrete political action carried out by the social democrats in Germany to prevent the proletariat of that country from following the revolutionary road opened up by the Russian working class. The Bolsheviks returned this assault blow for blow. Though still convalescing from the attack of 30 August 1918 which nearly cost him his life, [2] On that day Fanny Kaplan, a member of the Social Revolutionary party, shot at Lenin as he was leaving the Michelson factory where he had been addressing the workers. He was seriously wounded. Lenin replied at once to the first of these texts with The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky. Trotsky assumed the task of replying to the second, with a work published in the spring of 1920, bearing the same title as Kautsky’s: Terrorism and Communism, and written in the famous armoured train which Trotsky used to visit the front in the Civil War. The fact that the two principal Bolshevik leaders should have taken time off—amid all the urgent responsibilities which beset them—to reply so quickly to Kautsky’s criticisms was an index of the importance of the issues at stake. [*] The present article was written to introduce the Mexican publication of a volume containing Lenin’s The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky and Kautsky’s The Dictatorship of the Proletariat.

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