Utama Karl Marx's Theory of Revolution, Vol. III: The Dictatorship of the Proletariat

Karl Marx's Theory of Revolution, Vol. III: The Dictatorship of the Proletariat

In this third volume of his definitive study of Karl Marx's political thought, Hal Draper examines how Marx, and Marxism, have dealt with the issue of dictatorship in relation to the revolutionary use of force and repression, particularly as this debate has centered on the use of the term "dictatorship of the proletariat." Writing with his usual wit and perception, Draper strips away the layers of misinterpretation and misinformation that have accumulated over the years to show what Marx and Engels themselves really meant by the term.
Tahun: 1986
Penerbit: Monthly Review Press
Bahasa: english
Halaman: 256 / 472
ISBN 10: 0853456747
ISBN 13: 9780853456742
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Hal Draper
with the assistance of Stephen F. Diαmond


Volume 3: The Dictatorship of theProletariat

Hal Draper

@Monthly ReviewPress 1986

@ Aakar Books for South Asia 2011
Published in agreement with Monthly ReviewPress, New York
for publication and sale only in the lndian Subcontinent
(India,Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Maldives,

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FirstPublished ín lndía 2011

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978-93-5002-138-5 (Set)

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1. 훨’rom Rome to Robespierre
1. The Roman Dictatura (12) 2. Survival of the Dictatura (13)
3. Early Allusiol1s (16) 4. The Great French Revolution (18)
5. Marat and Dictatorship (22) 6. The “ TerribJe U s e" (25)


2. Socialism and Dictatonhip: The Beglnning
1. Tesíimony of Worrls (28) 2. The Beginning: Babeuf al1d
Buonarroti (29) 3. The Blanquist Myth (34) 4‘ Utopians and
Dictators (39) 5. Dezamy, Morrison, and Young Engels (42)

5. Dictatorshlp in 1848
1. Even Louis Blanc .
(45) 2. The Cavaignac Dictatorship (48)
3. Cavaignac as Prelude (51) 4. 찌'eitling and D ictatorship (53)
5. Bakunin and Dictatorship in 1848 (55)



The Dictatonhip of the Democracy: Man:: in 1848
1. The Case of Proudhon (58) 2. Toward the Rule of the Democracy (59) 3. What Man: Proposed (61) 4. Dictatorial Measures



The "Didatorship of the People": Conservative Version
1. “ Popular Despotism" and G u izot (68) 2. The “FeaI쉰d Word"
of Donoso Cortes (70) 3. Stein’s “Social Dictatorship" (71)




The Spectrum of ‘Dictatorship’
1. ‘Despotism’ and ‘C1ass Despotism' (77) 2. The Dim Side of the
Spectrum (80) 3. Militalγ Dictators and Dictatorships (82)
4. Some Nondictatorial D ictators (84) 5. The "Dictators" of the
Democracy (88)



Some Dictators over the Proletarlat
1. Bakunin and the “Secrct Dictatorship" of Anarchy (93) 2. Marx
on Bakunin’s Dictatorship (96) 3. Lassalle as “、;Vorkcrs’ D ictator"
(98) 4. The Apprentice Dictators (101) 5. A Clutch of Dictators




lntroduction to the lnvestigation
1. Periodization (111) 2. The ‘ Rule of thc Prolctariat’ (112)
3. Thc εoncept 01' CIllSS Rule (115) 4. The Word in 1850: Cabct
Again (I17)



Marx and Blanqui
1. Marx and Babouvism (120) 2. Thc Blanquist Tendcllcy (124)
3. Marx and Bhlll(!uÎ: The Revolutionary (127) 4. Marx and
Blanqui: Thc Defcllse Movemcnt (131) 5. Marx and Blanqui:
Pcrsonal Rclations (133) 6. Marx and Blanqui: The Unitcd Front



Marx Versus Blanquism
1. Early Ycars (145) 2. Lcssons of the Bmssels Pcriod (148)
3. The Q uestion of Allies in the Manifesto (150) 4. Revolution alld
Rcstraint (153) 5. Retrospection in the Fifties (158) 6. Marx’s 1850
Attack 011 Blanquism (160) 7. The Rest of 1850 (163) 8. Through
the Fiftics (168)



Man’s CIu.ss Strug정'Ies in France
1. ‘Dictatorship’ Times Five (175) 2. Locus 1 : Three Passages (178)
3. Blanqui as Bogey (181)


Tbe SUCR Episode
1 . Locus 2: The SUCR Statutes and the Signers (184) 2. The
Blanquist Refugees and the “AIliance" (188) 3. Wby SUCR
ColIapsed ( 1 93) 4. The Trouble with Nicolaievsky’s Fabulation
( 199) 5. The Simple Solution (206) 6. Our Central Thesis (21 1)


Reverbera야oos m 1850: TheNDZExcbaoge
I. “Proletarian Ascendancy" (214) 2. O tto Luning and thc NDZ
(21 6) 3. Luning Lifts a Lance (219) 4. Locus 3: Lüning Versus
Marx (220) 5. Marx’s Equation (224)


More Reverberatioos
1. Miquel's “Dicta�orship" (22η 2. Enter Hooligan, Raving (229)
3. W피ich’s “Dictatorship" (232) 4. Tcchow’s “Dictatorship" (236)
5. Eccarius, the “Vrai Pcuple," and a Near-Locus (238)


From Weydemeyer to Vogt
1. Introducing Weydemeyer (242) 2. Weydemeyer’s Article 00
“ Dictatorship" (244) 3. Locus 4 : Marx’s Letter (246) 4. Echo io
Herr Vogt (248) 5. More Echoes (251)


Tbe Many Dictatorships of Moses Hess
1. Introducing Hess (253) 2. Lassalle as Hess’ Dictator (256)
3. Messianic Interlude (259) 4. Hess in thc International (260)


Tbe Second Pcriod of tbc ‘Dictatorship of tbe Prolcta해따’ 264
1. Marx Versus Blanquism--Continued (264) 2. The Paris Commune
(269) 3. Blanquists In the Commune (274)


Man and tbe Blanquists Mtcr tbe Commune
1. τhe Blanquists and the International (279) 2. Marx and the
Emigrés (280) 3. The Blanquist Split (282) 4. The New Blanquist
Formulations (284) 5. Delahaye’s Formulation (286)


Man and Engeb m tbc Secood Pcriod
1. τhe Case of 、Termersch (289) 2. Locus 5: Marx’s Banquet
Speech (292) 3. Locus 6: Marx on Political Indifference (295)

4. Locus 7: Engels 00 the Housing Question (296) 5. Marx’'s Notes
on Bílkunin’s Book (298) 6. Locus 8: Engels on thc B1anquist
Rcfugees (302) 7. Locus 9: Marx on thc Gotha Program (303)


The Third Period of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat' 307
1. Lafargue’s Landmark (30 7) 2. Locus 10: Engels' Letter to
Schmidt (309) 3. Second Round on thc Gotha Program (31 0)
4. Rumpus in thc Rcichstag (312) 5. Locus 1 1 : Engels on the Paris
Commune (315) 6. Locus 12: Engels on thc Elfurt Program (3 1꺼
7. Engcls' Talk with Voden on Plekhanov (323)



Marxologists at Work
1. Survcys (329) 2. Marxological Mentions (332)


Fabrication of a F빼le: ’fhe “Man:-Blanquist" 없ytb 337
1. Bernstcin’s Case (338) 2. Lichtheim’s Putsch Against Marx (343)
3. Decrying Wolfe (347) 4. Tarradiddles and Sciolists (353)
5. The Case of Ernst Schraepler (357)


The Meaning of‘Terror’and‘ Terrorism’
I. Marx on the Jacobin Tcrror (361) 2. Marx on ‘Rcvolutionary
Te뼈rroris‘m바n'’ (β367기) 3. Tcrπro이rism미l'’Afl“te잉r 1 없8 (β37
η 1))


Gbosts, GobUns, and Garbles
1. Ghost-Locus: Feuer out ofMayer (375) 2. Ghost-Locus: 1꺼ng
Fetschc,. (377) 3. Ghost-Locus: Gcorgcs Gurv:itch (378) 4. Ghost­
Locus: Easton-Guddat (378) 5. Thc Goblins of Locus lc (379)
6. Thc Miquel Goblin (380) 7. Ectoplasmic Quotcs: Dommanget
(38 1 ) 8. Questions about MEC、V Translations (383)






Rcfercnce Notes


Bibliography (Works Cited)


l ndex



T h is volu me of Karl Marx’'s Theory ofRevolution (KMTR) is not about the
dictatorship of the proletariat. It is abou t the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’·
T h a t is, it is about the term. T h e difference takes us to the velγ heart of the
present work. Let me explain.

This voIume of KMTR is a bridge between the first two volumes and the
l1ext two. As presently planl1ed, Volum e 4 will take up Marx’s views o n other
sociaIisms and on the “ road to power"; Volume 5, workers’ state and socia!ist
society, that is, postrevolutionary problems. * My original intention was to
discuss the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ in the last volume, since it is
properly related to the workers’ state period. This is entirely proper in terms of
the real meaning of ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’, but it is unsatisfacíolγ if
we are to deal with the way ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ has actually
figured in the ‘listOIγ of Marxist thought.
It is going to be our conclusion (this can be revealed in advance) that Marx
used the term 1:0 mean nothing less am[llotlzillg more than a workers’ state-­
what he commonly called the “conquest of political power by the proIetariat."
T h e period following a socialist revolution had several interchangeable lab이S
in M a rx ’s writin gs : ‘worker상 state’, the ‘political ascendal1cy (01" sway,
Herrsclza ft) of the proletariat', ‘workers’ political (or state) power’, the ‘rule
(Herrscha 찌 of t h e proletariat’, and some others; and one of these, used i n
certain c o n texts, w a s t h e ‘dictatorship o f t h e proletariat'.

*It will be evident to readers of previous volumes that the plan of KMTR has
changed and expanded since my OIiginal description in Volume 1. As apoI 웹, or
explanation, I need on1y say that the project has taken shape in the ma찌ng.Obviously,
references in Volum얹 1 and 2 to material plann때 뼈. forthcoming volumes n않d



But this simple view has not been the usual one, as we will see. O n e of the
problems is the persistent raising of the wrong q u estions. Thus, it has been
written a thousand times, in complaint, condemnation or regret, that Marx
“ failed " to describe his ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ in any detail. But this
assumes that there is something special to describe, other than the workers’
state in general; and this is precisely what is u ntrue. Of course, it is quite in
order to complain that Marx did not write more fuIly on what a workers’ state
would 01' should look like, though here the reasons for his reluctance are better
known. But in any case, the two complaints are one: there is no special
revelation about the dictatorship of the proletariat’ (properly understood)
that he could have made.
Marx, contrary to myth, had a good deal to say about the problems of the
postrevolutionary period. There is the problem of defending the workers’ state
against cou nterrevolution ; of using force against enemies; of rooting out (or
“ s ll1ashing") the old state machinery; of recasting governmental forms so as to
maximize democratic control; and so O ll. AlI of these problems and more are
raised by the term ‘workers’ state' or its equivalellts. Some of these problell1s
h ave already beell touched Oll in the first two volumes of KMTR, a lld, as
lI1entioned, the postrevolutioll period as a whole will be the subject of the last
The presellt volu me, then, does not have the task of settillg fOlih Marx’s
positive views in this velγ important area. It does something else: it undeliakes
to clear away the ullderbrush that stallds in the way of ullderstalldillg Marx’s
1 said that many problems are raised by the tenn ‘workers’ state’, but no one
would s u ggest that the term itself provides a nswers. The case is diITcrellt with
the tenn ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’. Is it 1I0t true that tlzis terlll was Ì1zvellted
precisely becal/se itpoillls 10 징Jecialpolicies, policies that are specially dictatorial ill some
)IIay? DoyOll1l0t Izave a 'tlicfatorship ofthepl'oletariat ’only ifyoll do sometlzillg sturtlil)’
dictatori,ιzllike, say, disfr‘mc/zising tlze bourgeoisie, or givillg double voting riglzts to
certifiedpro!etarial/s, 01' at least occasÎolla!ψ thrmving a brace ofyour critics Întojail...?
This is the sort of assumptioll tha t cOllfers a special freight of meanillg on
‘dictatorship of the prole



In reality, the debate was usually ove,' something else, revolving around the
Soviet state a n d its course of development, finally around the counterrevolution
represented by the rise of Stalinism. 1 g.-ant that this something else was of the
greatest importance; but it was not c1arified by a camouflaged assault on
a n o ther front. The phrase ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ acquired the status
of a s hibboleth-a code word fo,. both sides.
After most of a centu ry of this 50rt of disputatioll, MaI:\:’'s ideas on the
subj ect were buried u nder the mass of b urnt-out s quibs, d u d cannonballs, and
fizgigs exploded d u ring this ideological warfare. Few of the controversialists
even cared m uch &bout what old Marx thought of it all, so long as a point
could be scored in the real battle: the b attle over the Russian Revolution alld,
later, over its corpse embalmed by Stalin.
This battle is not waged in the present volu me. We will deal 、vith the histOlγ
of the question only through Marx’s a n d Engels' Iifetime, tl1at is, to 1895. For
the rest of this history, see Section 4 below.

As a result of the ideological wars, a t almost every stage of the present
investigation we have to shike d own myths about Marx’s and Engels’ relation­
ship to this a n d alIied q uestions. ln doing so, we have to deal with many
statements that a re---well, u ntrue. Now English is tricky about words like
‘ false’, ‘falsity’, ‘ falsehood’, ‘falsification’, and the Iike. The first two, says
Merriam-Webster’s, do not necessarily imply conscÎous desire to deceive; the
other two do. Now 1 happen to believe, with Dr. Johnson, that deliberate
deceit in this area is rare: “It is more from carelessness about truth tha n fl"om
inte n tional lying that there is so much falsehood in the world," said the great
lexicographer, using ‘ falsehood’ neutrally. C3I.elessness is not the main point:
m05t people are so expert at sincerely believing whatever is convenÎent that
simple mendacity is unnccessary; self-deception is the most effective kind.
In no case, then, will 1 imply that falsity illvolves falsification ; but s디lI a
term is needed for this neutral ‘fa!sehood’. 1 have a Iexicographical proposal.
T h e word ‘ fiction’ already signifies the relation of nonfacts without intention
to d eceive. Fables are surely a form of fiction, rather than falsification: when
we come across cases of fabulation, Iet us calI itfals펀'ctÍon.
We need not, then, inquire into the subjective intentions of the fabulists.
B u t their falsifictions will be a recurring motif of this study.



In 1 962 1 publishcd a longish essay on “Marx and thc D ictatorship of the
Pmlctariat" which introduccd thc innovativc mcthod of setting down and
exa m i n i n g what Marx and Engcls had actually written or said about thc
‘dictatorship of the prolctariat’,in OI"der to determine what they meant.* This
mcthod was unorthodox, indeed singular, in comparison with the common
proccd u re ofthc marxologists, which is to q uote a s natch from Marx 01' Engels
and then construct the corplls of “Marxism" by extrapolation, 11l1lch as a
p aleontologist may invent a dinosa u r from a single bone. But l1ly eccentric
p roced u re had the advantage of being fruitful.
T h e p resent volume is based in pali on that seventy-page study, but a great
deal of matcrial has bcen added,and thc scopc has been substantially enlargcd.
Part J, which examines the histOlγ of thc 、、ford ‘dictatorship’, is not a
philological excu rsion. H is basically an attel1lpt to answer thc follo、,ving
q ucstion: When in 1 8 50 Marx first set down the phrase ‘dictatorship of the
p rolctariat’,what did the word ‘dictatorship’ (by itsell) mean, not only to him
but to thc socia!ist movement and, Îndced, to thc gencral political public?
This part, therefore, is not a history of dictatorship (whatcvcr thc thing
d ictatorship is takcn to be) but rathel" a histolγ of the term as a political statelllelll.
To bc s u re, the distinction sometimes bluγs in practicc, as usual, but it is
always íhe latícr history that is the guiding a im. When the readers of Marx’s
m agazi n e,theNeue RheÎnÎsche ZeitullglRevue, first saw thc words “dictatorship
of thc p rolctariat" in 1 8 50, they responded with contcmporaneous conscious­
ness, not with our twentieth-centUlγ notiolls about the meaning of ‘dictatorship’.
Part n performs the task of rclating this history to the writings of Marx and
Engels: it su rvcys how they uscd the word ‘dictatorship’ t01l1 court. In this
conncctioll a great deal of aneillary political material comes to light, in
particular on the dicíatorÎal hankel"ings of certain socialist figures, some of
wllom a rc enshrined by marxologists as paladins of democracy and freedom.
Part HI takes up the subject which is,in general,the secondmγ theme of the
entire volu me, viz., the ,"elation of Marx to Blanqui and B1anquism. (lt was
r.epresented in my 1962 essay by only a short p!ssage.) The mass of Iiterature
on κ

*This essay was published, in English, in the Paris journal

Eludes de Maκxologie (No.

6, Septcmber 1962), edited by Maximilien Rubel, who had been helpful in getting me


this project. A summary, only about a third of the whole, was publised În

NelV Po/ilics (New 、'ork), Summer




not j us t a question of establishing historical truth, though this is necessarγ; no
one who is victimized by this falsifiction can understand Marx’s views.
Part III therefore pl'esents a seal'ching investigation of Marx’s I'clation to
Blanqu i and the Blanquists. My aim h a s been to make it the most thorough­
g oing availablc . In this I'espect, too, the pl'cscnt volume is a bridge to the
volumes that follow. A positive presentation of Marx’s views on force and
violence in the social struggle will be made in Volume 4, but here we have to
c1ear away some rubbish. This is also the function of the Special Note on the
meaning of the term ‘terror(ism)'-not only in Marx but in all the literature of
the m id-nineteenth century-for few terms have rivaled this one in its capacity
for obfuscation.
Pmi IV presents and examines every use by Marx and Engels of the" tel'm
‘dictatorship o f th e proletariat’ or its equivalent. It covers the ground to which
my 1 962 essay was mainly devoted; but much has been a dded.* In particular,
there are new sections on documents and episodes involving Marx or Engels
which 1 would call near-loCÎ. Special aítention has been paid to cases where the
term ‘dictatorsh i p of the proletariat’ or something Iike it showed up in the
writings of others.
In the course of Part I V I have taken a dvantage of the subject to cover some
m atters that might othenvise h ave been left out ofK MTR as d igressive, but
w hi c h (even if really d igressive!) have the habit of cropping up in marxological
works. T h u s , the “ SUCR episode" of 1 850 has been referred to in countless
books, with various i maginative interpretations, but the whole storγ (that is,
as m u c h of it as we know) has never been presented. Here it is, in Chapter 12.
C ha pter 1 60n Moses Hess may appear to be digressive; but there is no betier
way of showing what ideas about dictatorship were prevalent in the movement
alollgside M arx-by figures hostile to h im. Hess’s dictatorial conceptions are
aIl the more important because Hess has a right to be called the father of
social-democratic reformism. T h e split in the Paris Commune over dictator­
s h i p is rarely mentioned, but it should b e seen as part of the total picture. For a
final example: the most amazing thing about Engels' condemnation of
Plekhanov’s interpretation of ‘dictatorship ofthe proletariat’ (Chapter 20) is
that i t is virtually unknown; yet here the Marx-Engels tradition voiced it

*Locus 5, Marx’s banquet speech o f 1 8 7 1 , was not included i n t h e 1 96 2 essay; 1
published a supplementary note about it in New Politics, Summer 1962, page 130. (The
rest of the locus numbers, therefore, are changed from the 1962 Iist.)

Fo rewo rd


For interested readers, additional material on the subject of this volume is
available from other sources.
(1) Some documentation, for example, has been left out of this volume
purely for space considerations. The Special Notes should have included two
studies which 1 published in periodicals, but they have been regretfully
o m itted. These are:
e “K ad Marx and Simón Bolívar: A Note on Åuthoritarian Leadership in a
National Liberation Movement"-an essay on Marx’s analysis of Bolívar as a
Bonapartist dictator.
• “Joseph Wcydemeyer’s ‘ Dicíatol's h ip of the Proletariat' "-in particular
its tra nsla tion (full text) of the fu정t a rticle cver entitled “The Dictatorship of
the Proletariat," written by Marx’s friend Weydemeyer in 1 852.
T h e backgroulld of these a rticles is explained in this text; their publication
d a ta a re given in the Bibliography. Copies of these articles are obtainable, at
Ilollprofit reproduction rates, from the Center for Socialist History (Berkeley),
which 1 h elped to found in order to facilitate historical research on the socialist
(2) As mentioned, this volume ends with 1 895. The rest of the historγ of the
‘dictatorship of the p roletariat’ will be the subject of a separate work, tentatively
titled The ‘'Dictato rshψ ofthe Proletariat 칸0111 Marx 10 Lellill. This will trace the
question through the Sccond International, in the Russian movement (particu­
larly in Plekhanov and Lenin), d u ring the First World Revolution of 1 9 1 81 9 2 1 , and up through thc Year One of the Russian Revolution, that is, ulltil
November 1 918. T h e subscquent utilization of the term by Stalinism, as the
label for a species of noncapitalist totalitarianism, is of 110 separate thcoretical

T h is volume is the same as previous volumes ill format and othe.' techllical
respects. T h e folIowing reminders may be useful.
Notes. There is a sharp distinction between referellce 11Otes, which are
relegatcd to the back of the book, alldjootllotes, which are intended to be read
as part of thc text. The general reader is advised to ignore all the superscript
numbers that pepper thc pagcs: thc referencc notes mainly offer information


*1<01' i n formation a n d rates, addl'ess t h e Center for Socialist H i story, 2633 Etna,
Berkeley, CA 94704, enclosing a self-addressed stamped e nvelope.



on s o u rces a n d some other technical m atters, but never affect the line of
thoug h t.
• Quotes. Inside q uoted passages, all emphasis is in the original, and all
(bracketed words] represent my own i nterpolations.
• Degree-mark symbo/. This unorthodox sign is used to indicate that certain
q u oted words 01' passages are in Ellglislz ill the origillal. A double degree marl‘
(씌 a t the beginning of a q u otation means that the whole passage was
o riginally written i n English. Inside a q uotation, words 01' phrases originally
in E n glish are marked off using the symbol like q uotation marks, oas here.。
(Th i s is d o n e only when necessary, not in every case.)
• Translatiolls. Where possible, 1 h ave used English translations from the
volu mes so far published ofth e Marx-Engels Collected Works (MECW) 01' from
the t h ree-volume M arx-Engels Se/ected Works (MESW). All translations o r
revisions of translations n o t otherwise ascribed are my own responsibiIity.
• Single quotes. These, with the punctuation outside, are used to indicate
that a word is b ei n g exhibited-that a term i s being used as a term-rather
than being either q uoted 01' used as an i ntegral part of the sentence.

훌 1,..,."....,...,. ...


짧 1




T h e questiol1 i s : wh at d id the word ‘ dictatorship’ (dictature, Diktatur, etc.)
mean in the year 1850, ‘,vhen Marx first used the term ‘diciatorship of the
T h e assu mption of the marxologists, it seems, h a s always been that it meant
exactIy the same thing that we mean by it in the Iate nventieth centurγ. Few
people, to be s ure, will admit making th is assumption conscious‘y; but all h ave
incorporated it i nto their argumentation; and in any case no marxologist has
ever q uestioned it. W
But the present-day meaning of ‘dicta torsh ip ’ does not go back to the
begi n n ing of time; in fad, it is relatively recent. The first warning of this fact
that 1 came across was sounded by Henrγ R. Spencer in 1931 i n the Ellcyclopaedia
oftlze Sociu! Sciellces: “Dictatorship is a term which h a s u ndergone notable
c h a n ge i n meaning." He explained its original meanil1g, a n d added that,
while modern times have seen ahsolutism, despotism and tyranny,
the concept of dictatorship has untH recently been kept separate and
history h a s used it to designate a n emergency assumptioll of p ower . .
ln the decade following the [First) 、,Vorld War, however, there was a
widespread tendency to use the term dictatorship as synonymous with
absolutism 01' autocracy. '
Actua lly, the change must have begun before the First World War, in the last
decades of the n ineteenth century. There is often a period in which new a nd
old meanings jostle i n the public consciousness; Spencer’s date probably
marked t h e end of the jostling, 1" But h is essential point is true a n d important:
the present-day aUl'a around the word ‘dictatorship’ is relatively modern.
* 1 must explain that i use the term ‘marxologist’ only pejoratively, much as others
1 do 110t do ‘marxology’; my slIbject is Marxism.
t For example, in 1906 Lenil1, discussing the ‘dictatorship of tlie proletariat’, showed

lIse ‘krcmlinologist.’

awareness of a term i n o l o gical p r o b l em: “The i d e a t h a t there c a n be a dictato r s h i p
without a n y police, 0 1' t h a t dictatorship necd n o t be a police dictatorship, seems strange
10 Ipeoplel," he remarked.2



Part 1: Dictatorship: lts Meaning În J 850

To understand what ‘dictatorship’ meant in the middle of the nineteenth
century, we must go back to Rome. T h e reason is not antiquarian: the old
Roman meaning was not dead in 1 8 50.
D u ring most of that century, ‘dictatorship’ still retained a great deal of its
o riginal reference to the institution called the dictatura in the constitution ofthe
c1assical Roman Republic,an institution that lasted for centuries. It had three
m ain features:
(1) It was constitutional and legal. T h e constitution itself p rovided for the
naming-in time of invasion or civil disordel",that is,of crisis and emergency­
of a one-man ruler who united specially extended powers in his hands.
(2) It was temporary. T h e maximum d uration was six months, buí usually
the dictator handed his power back sooner, whenever the emergency ended.
(3) It was limited in significant ways. Most p articularly, while the laws
were temporarily abrogated, the d ictatorship could not make new laws. The
dictator’s j urisdiction was p대narily not civil but military,whether against an
external foe or internal dissension. Money had to be voted; the Senate held the
p u rse strings. T h e dictat이·’s authority was confined to Italy. Power of life and
death over citizens was early limited by law. And in fact,in the course of time,
c hanges 、,vere made in the limitations and conditions ofthe dictatura, p recisely
because it was not conceived to be an independent autocracy, and because
there was an obvious danger that this institution would be put to unintended
It worked-for three centuries: that means it worked. For centuries the
p ractice ofthe dictatura stayed within the constitutiol1al,legal frame찌rork of the
Republic and did not degenerate Îl1to tyranny. The fu응t dictatura was said to
h ave been established in 501 B.c.; the last o f th e general dictators (leaving
aside a minor type ofdictatura 1 have not mentioned) took office ÎI1 2 1 6 B.C.
Finally, like aH other il1stitutiol1s, this ol1e broke down. When SuUa and
Caesar h a d themselves appointed “ perpetu쩌 dictators," this meant the
scrapping of the constitutionalliictatura. Even so, Sulla laid down the office
after a few years aml retired. Cε esar instituted a d ictatOl"ship in our current
sense a s a resuIt of destroying the illstitution in the origil1al Roman sens옹­
and incidentally gave rise to a whole family of new terms (Caesarism, kaiser,
czar, etc.).
Was the 찌ctatura

1. From Rome




The far-from-worId‘sh a king result was that, when Augustus tool‘ over a n d
returned to republican forms, he caIled h irnself not dicíator b u t Number O n e
o r Número U n o-depending o n your translatiol1 o fprinceps civitatis o rprillceps.
It was 110t the dictatura that created Caesarism or the Caesarist type of
d ictatorship; i t was Caesarism tha t bel1t the dictatul'a to its purpose. I fnot that,
something eIse would have been found, as always. Significantly, this prefìgured
tne faíe of ‘dictatorsh i p of the p roletariat’.

Something like the Roman dictatura still exists i n the cOl1temporary world. I t
is caIled martial law (011 t h e Continent, state of siege), a form of crisis
government or emel"gency regime. It bas the essentiaj features of the Roman
device: behind martial law is u nderstood a fra mework o f constitutional law,
not tyranny; it is temporary; it can a b rogate laws (temporariIy) but cannot
legaUy impose n ew laws or constitutions.
Modern h istory, which has seen many invocations of martial law, shows
that it does not llecesearily lead to tyran ny, though it call be ab used. H is not
regarded a s ipsofacto undemocr따ic, tho u gh a particular invocation may be so,
of course. I t is not only consiste n t with d emocratic institutions but, when i t is
directed against a threat to these i nstitutions, it appears as a veritable
democratic bulwark.
An academic conservative, εIintOI1 Rossiter, has offered an extellsÍve
exa m in ation of martiaI-Iaw forms of government as the modern incarnation of
t h e Roman dictatura, i n a book called Constitutional Dictatorship: Crisis Govemment
În the Modem Democrucies (1 948). T h e best-lrnowl1 example ofsuch a “constitu­
tionaI d ictatorship" was provided for by Article 48 ÎIl the Weimar Constitution
of pre-HitIer Germany, a cOl1stitution sometimes called the most democratic
in the world. This offers the dassic case of wl1at may be caUed the political
versi o n ofMurphy’s Law: viz., ifUllJ’tltillg CUIl be abused, it wi/l be.
Bet\Veen 1 9 1 9 a n d 1 925 this “constitutional dictatorship" was invoked 135
times,3 by SodaI-Democratic a n d other governments pledged to combát
“Marxism" a n d revolution. Although Article 48 gave the president of the
republic authority to issue emergenqr decrees in face of a threat to public
order, it was actuaUy used frequently t o impose economic a nd other measures
for which popular democratic sanction was Iacking. 생Ihen the economic
s ituation eased up, i n 1 925-1 930, it was invoked o nly nineieen times. By 1 930
it was used b y ChanceHor Brüning to maintain his govemment, with the
s u pport of the Social-Democrats, on the basis of an ecollomic program of cuts
in welfare that could not get a
vote i n the Rekhstag. T h e historian


p,αrt 1: Dictatorslzip: Its Meaning ill J 850

A rthur Rosenberg sees t h is situation as the death ofthe Weimar Republic:
“The Reichstag thus abandoned the struggle with the u nconstitutional dic­
tatorship of Brüning and h is friends by a majority vote. 4 T h e republic then
collapsed from one d ictatorship into another, the Nazi dictatorship coming as
the end term. I n 1 93 1 - 1 932 Article 48 was invoked 101 times.
H is IIslIally a rglled that the “constitlltion al dictatorship," that is, Article
48, was not used but misused; no doubt. But the situation wOllld not have been
different if there had been no convenient Article 48 to a buse. The real histOlγ
of 、Neimar 、vas a struggle of socia! forces, not an exercise in political fonns.
Still, we have to u nderstand the political forms of the strllggle.
Professor Rossiter had no doubt that “dictatorship" might be needed to
defend “democracy"--constitutional d ictatorship, that is. Constitutional dic­
tatorship, he wrote, has been used “in all 1'ree countries, and by all free men."
I nd eed
It is i n this twentieth century and indeed i n these velγ days that the
age-old phenomenon of constitutionaI dictatorship has reached the
peak of its significance.
O u r p roblem is t o make that power (of t h e U n ited States government]
ef1'ective a n d responsible, to make any future dictatorship a constitu­
tional one. No sacrifice is too great 1'01' o u r democracy, least of aU the
temporary sacrifice of democracy itsele
Rossiter, a democr없 and a patriotic American, would Irnow what to think if
h e heard a dictator talking about “temporarily" sacrificing democracy i n order
to save it. Yet this would not shake h i s view that a democracy must have this
d evice at its disposal. Obviously, any particular invocation 01' a “cons디tutional
d ictato rs hip" can be justified only by a specific sociopolitical analysis; nor can
it be impugned simply by pointing with alarm.
Twelve years after publishing h is COllstÎtutional Dictatorslzψ Rossiter crowned
his labors of erlldition with a wodμMaκxism: The Viewfrom America (1960), i n
which he d i d n ot fail t o pay t h e usual respects t o Marx’s ‘dictatorship of the
p roletariat.’ Only somehow, i n the intervening years, Rossiter hac. forgotten
all about h is i nsight i nto the concept of ‘dictatorship’ a n d the survival of the
Rom a n meani n g. His new book had not a single sentcnce showing awareness
that ‘ dictatorship' did 110t always mean what H means now to any newspaper
reader. In fact, in at least OI1C passage he Hghtly takes it for granted that
‘dictatorship’ means only “ absolute power, 6 and that it meant this to Marx,
as to a l1yone else, at a ny time and place. Elsewhere, in a genial moment, h e
credits Marx with a thought about “this proletariat, operating through the
fa mous d ictatorship .... 7 This breezy reference i s to the d ictatorship made

1. From Rome to Robespierre


“ fa mous" by o n e ignoran t book after another, not to the ‘dictatorship’ dis­
cussed by Rossiter il1 1948.
T here is a nother piqua n t example of the flXed idea that ‘dict없orship’ is
h istoricaHy immutable: a m u ltivolum e reference work with the notable
Dictionary ofthe History ofIdeas, edited by P. P. Wiener. History of ideas: that is
exactly what we need! H h as, for instance, a Iong historic꾀 article 011 the
career ofthe word ‘ despotism’. But there is n o article o n ‘dictatorship’, a nd
a m o n g all mentÎons of the term that can be traced through the index, there is
n o t a single sel1tence to intimate that this 、,'I'ord has not always meant what it
d oe s 110W.
On the other hand, there are some different cases: modern political scientists
w h o understand that the Roman meaning of‘dictatol"ship’ stiU has life. FOI"
exa m ple, C harles . Merriam explained in 1 93 9 that it was a misl10mer to call
the Nazi regime a dictatorship. H i s discussion s h ows, 110t a softer view of
Nazism, b u t a reminiscence of the c1assical ‘dictatorship’, and a feeling that it
was stiII viable for him.8
I n the s a m e year, the theoretician of liberalism R. M. MacIver published a
discussion of dictatorship i n which h e thought it useful to pOÍnt out tl1at the
old Roman sense “is not u n known in the modern world." He was refeηing to
the Weimar constitution. Then he Iinked this tl10ught with Marx as folIows:
T h e origin a l Marxist doctrille of the “dictatorship of the people" [sicJ
h a d in it something akin to the Roman idea. I t was to be a temporary
a n d exception a l form of government to prepare the way for the inaugura­
tion of a new dictatorless-Îll fact, stateless-order. 9
Clearly, Iike RossÏter in 1 948, MacIver did not think that the Roman dictatura
was q uite a s dead a s a doornail, a n d also had a glimmering of the situation in
t h e nineteenth century.
Third example (to make a trio): EUe Halévy, in his m uch-praised book The
Era ofTyramzies ( 1 938), explains why he uses the word ‘ tyranny’ instead of
‘ d ictatorship’:
T h e Latin word ‘dictatorship’ implies a provisiol1al regime, leaving
intact in tne Iong run a regime of liberty which, in spite of everytbing, is
considered normal . . .
u lllike t h e Greek ‘tyranny’. 10 He was not motivaíed by a ny speciallmowledge
a b o ut M arx’s use of ‘ dictatorship o f the proletariat', for 011 this pOÎnt h e
d isplays t h e usu잉 ignorance. 1l
1 a m not citin g these three cases to show that the Roman
dictatura has b


Part 1: Dictatorship: Its MeallÎng in 1850

iallguage no doubt reflects Lincoln’s ignoring of legalities in order to impose
emergellcy measures. But while the Roman meaning shows only twitching
signs of life in this century, we must be prepared for the news that it was in
flourishing health early in the previous centuIγ.
And that is the point.
T h us, in 1 8 55the New YorkDaiψ Trib ll1le carried a n editorial titled “BIitish
Disaster in the Crimea" which talked of “dictatorship" by a commander in
chief on the field of battle. The thought not only made the tcrm ‘dictatorship’
equivalent to the Roman dictatura, it made the connection explicitly. The
s ubject was the disastrously inept organization ofthe British army, revealed in
the war. “But what was to be done?"
. . . there is only one remedy. This is the assumption by the General-in­
Chief of the expedition upon his OWIl authority, and his own respons­
ibility, of that dictatorship over all the conflicting and contending
departments of the militaηT administl'ation which eveiγ other General­
in-Chief possesses, and without which he cannot bring the eníerprise to
any end but ruin. That would soon make matters smooth; but where is
the British General who would be prepared to act in this Roman
manner, a n d on his trial defend himself, like the Roman, with the
words, “Yes, 1 plead guilty to having saved my counnγ ?13
T h e a uthor ofthis articIe was Friedrich Engels. The articIe made it plain
that nothing startling was being proposed, for “every other Genel'al-in-Chief"
h a d this power, which of course operated only in the theater of war and
remained subordinate to the home government. The link to the Roman
dictatura was assumed to be clear. This is all the more noteworthy since the
term ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ had been used for the first time only five
years before.

Through the first half of the nineteenth century the I:mguage of poHtics in
alI of Europe was French: the French Ilsually invented the new words and
estabHshed the connotations. But dictature and dictateur were not new terms.
Dictateur went back to the thirteenth century, llictature to the fourteenth.
ln Italy, Niccolò MachiavelIi-in aD essay more democratic in mood than
The Prince-gave a gIowing picture of the Roman dictatura. A republic, he
argued in the 1 51Os, is 110t harmed by “power that comes in lawfui ways; it is
apparcnt that n ever in Rome d uring so iong a course 01' time did any dictator
do the republic anything but goOd." J4

1. From Rome 10 Robespierre


I n conclusion, therefore, 1 say that those republics that cannot against
impending danger take refuge under a dictator 01' some such auíhority
will in serfous emergencies always be ruined.15
Spinoza, on the other hand, took a dim view of the institution, considering
resort to it a danger to the state.16 (During his Berlin student days, Marx,
writing in his 1 840-1841 notebooks, made extensive excerpts from the work by
Spinoza just quotedY) This positive-negative pairing can be found eIsewhere.
Of the hγo poets who died in 1674 Milton used ‘dictatorship’ only for Satan,1 8
never for his rivaI; but Robert Herrick’s laudatory poem “To Sil' Jolm
Berkley, Govemor of Exeter" referred to his subject’s “great Dictator-ship"
without derogation. Certainly the word had no hard-and-fast pejorative
Algernon Sidney attacked FiImer’s attempt in 1680 to justify royal
absolutism by referring to the dictatorship. In his reply Sidney praised the
Roman dictatura because it did 110t confer absolute power and because the
people remained sovereign:
Though 1 do therefore grant, that a power like to the dictatorian,
limited in time, drcumscribed by law, and kept perpetually under the
supreme authority of the people, may, by virtuous and well-disciplined
nations, upon some occasions, be prudently granted to a virtuous man,
it can have no relation to our author’s monarch, whose power is in
himself, subject to no Iaw, perpetually exercised by himseH;‘ and for his
own sake .
nothing being more unreasonable than to deduce con­
sequences from c�ses, which in substance and CÎrcumstances are
altôgether unlike.19


No doubt all of the writers cited above believed that they were using
‘dictatorship’ to mean the Roman dictatura, but in fact a certain imprecision
had made itself felt through the Iapse of centuries. This is scarcely surplising.
As a model to copy, the dictatura was a little blunγ around its edges, as the
Romans found out.
Dictionary-maken groped. In 1 691, the French dictionary by Furetiêre20
gave only the Roman meaning of dictature. The frrst edition of the French
Academy’s dictionary in 1694 purported to do 50 too, but it omitted any
mention of the temporary nature of the dictatura, and the sole example it gave
was-Julius Caesar!21 Plainiy, a piece of the picture had gotten lost. In 1734
the Ðictiomzaire de Trevoιx added, to the Roman meaning, a figurative one:
“pour sign


Pal't 1: Dictatol'ship: lts MeanÎllg ÎII 1850

opinion in the 1 760s was similar, emphasizing the limitations of the institution.
ln a chapter of the Socia! Contl'act devoted to “The Dictatorship" (coordinate
with o n e on the offices of tribune and censor respectively) he j udged that the
later Republic’s fear of the institution was unjustified: “that a dictator might,
in certain cases, defel1d the public liberty, but could I1cvcr endangel" Ît; and
that the chail1s of Rome 까lould be fOl"ged, 110t in Rome itself, but in her
a rm i e s. " He saw that Caesarism, which u tilized the institutiol1, came from
o utside it, from the application of armed force.
I n America, the two men whose names are supposed to stand for opposite
approaches to politics did not express opposite points of view on this question.
Alexander H amilton, arguing in the 17805 for a one-man executive, adduced
how often that [Roman] republic was obliged to take refuge in the
absolute power 01' a single man, under the formidable title 01' diCtator . . . 25
Thomas Jefferson likewise did not always exclude the need for a dictatorship,
as he u nderstood the term. In a letter written shortly after the acquittal of the
Aaron Burr conspirators, he remarked:
Should we have ever gaincd our Revolution, if we had bound our hands
by manacles of the law, 110t only ÍI1 the begil1nÎng, but in any part of the
revolutionary conffict? There arc extreme cases where the laws become
inadequate even to their own preservation, and where the universal
resoUl띠e is a dictator, or mm펴a꾀l la‘w ι26
To be sure, JeITerson did not allow consistency to bc a hobgoblin, and at
other times he had other things to say about dictatorship.27 Perhaps the most
interesting thing about his statement, quotcd above, is its last three words:
here we find, perhaps for the first time, an identification of dictatorship with
martial law, viewed favorably.
111 떠I these allusions, so far, refcrences to ‘dictatorship’ have been incidental.
Like all the basic elements 01' modern politics, ‘dictatorship’ did not take
center-stage u ntil the Great French Revolution.

H was În the Great French Revolution that, for the first time, the word
‘dictatorship’ became a political football Ìn a big arena. As partisan charges
wεre hurled back and forth, other terms too wcre affccted. When dire things
happen to people, mere words are p ummeled out of shapc.
It has becn observed that there was a terminological link bctween the
FrCllch Re、'olution and Romun times. E. B. Bax rcmarkcd that this was

1. From Rome to Robespierre


i ndicated even in people'’s names: Anacharsis εloots, Auaxagoras εhaumette,
Gracchus Babeuf, etc. “ Everyon e with the smaHest smattering of education
talked Roman History, just as i n thc English political movements of the
preceding centu ry everyone talked Old Tesíament.,, 28 In Tlte
Brumaire, Marx wrote that
‘he Revolution of 1 789 to 1 8 1 4 draped itself altemately as the Roman
republic and the Roman empire, and the Revolution of 1848 knew
nothing beUer to do than to parody, now 1 789, now the revolutionary
tradition of 1 793 to 1 795
Camille Desmoulins, Danton, Robespier‘'e,
Saint-Just, Napoleon, the heroes as well as tl‘e parties a n d the masses of
the old French Revolution, performed the task of their time in Roman
costu me a n d with Roman p hrases, the task of u nchaining and setting
up model-n bourgeois society-2 9


“Roman costu mes and p h rases " : we a re, of course, concemed precisely with
one of these ph rases. Marx then u nderlined a key point:
T h e new socia\ formation once established, the antediluvian Colossi
d isappeared and with them resurrected Romanity-the Brutuses,
G ra cchi, P ublicolas, the tribunes [add also: the dictators], the senators,
a n d Caesar h im self . . . [ I ] n the dassically austere traditions of the
Roman republic, its [the bourgeoisie’sJ gladiators foun d the ideais and
the art forms, the self-deceptions tha t they needed in order to conceal
froIl1,xhemselves the bourgeois Iimitations of the content of their struggles
T h e key point was this: the forms (su c h as “ tribunes," etc.) looked like
somet h i n g from the past, b u t t h e contcnts were new and different‘ T h e words
a n d terms used came from the h istorical model, b u t these bottles were fiUed
with new wine.
T h i s happel1cd ÎIl two periods. ln thc first, the actors i n the Great French
Revolution spoke lines they though t came from the Roman drama; in the
second, t h e “ heroes" of 1 848 stalked about thinking they were assaulting the
Bastille 01' orating i n t h e Convention. E n gels reminisced:
When the February Revolution broke out, aU of l1s ... were u nder
spell of previous historical experience, particularly that of F r a n c e ....
was, therefore, natural alld u navoidable that o u r conceptions ofthe
nature a n d t h e course of the “social" revolution proclaimed in Pans in
February 1 848, of the revolution of the proletariat, should be
coiored by memories of the prototypes of 1 789 and 1 830.31
J u s t as generals are usually accused of getting ready to fight the last war all
over again, s o too revolutionary movements.
If the word ‘dictatorship’ 、,vas in bad odor among the onltors a n d publicists
of the French Revolution, this was less because of any alleged antidemocratic


Part 1: Dictatorship: Its Mealling Îll J 850

connotation than bccausc of another aspect of the Roman meaning: whatever
a dictatorship was, it was something wielded by Olle man. If one of the actors
was charged with wanting a dictatorship, this was the accusatioß.
The main target was Robespierre, who indeed made the nearest approach
to concentrating personal power in his own hands. For this verγ reason
Robespierre was more emphatic than anyone else in denouncing dictatorship
and would-be dictators.32 Like everγone else, he sought to turn the charge
against his critics. In an attack on Lafayette published June 18,1792, he wrote
that the general was “not yet dictator of Fnmce,'’ nor “arbiter of the state,"
questioned the patriotism of-this “dictateurp réso끼ptif," and sarcasticalIy called
him “'gelleral-dictateuκ "33 Lafayette-was vulnerable.* The label was just as
handy inside the Jacobins. When Doppet proposed appointment of a committee
to sift charges before they came to the floor, Robespierre opposed the motion
as dictatorial: it would be “a comrnittee outfitted as a slIpreme dictator. 35
The “dictatorship" charge was a stand-by of the Girondins. BlIt it wOllld be
a mistake to believe that the charge was inspired simply by fear of one-man
l'ule or by reminiscences of the Roman dictatura. In the first place, the Girondin
leader Brissot was j llst as violently denunciatolγ of the idea of a “tribllnate":
tribunes, ne declared, were the most dangerolls enemies of the peopl옹 “men
who flatler the people in ordel' to sllbjugate thern, who tyrannize over opinion
under the name of liberty." He equated the Roman institution ...vith the
εl'ornwellian “protectorate.'" Condorcet attacked Robespierre for inspiring
Marat to agitate for a tribullate.36 Brissot Iinked the dirty word ‘dictatorship’
with whatever he was against. In speeches of JlIly 25-26, 1792, he spoke
against the establishment of the republic. The Robespierrists, he said, were a
faction ofregicides “who want to creafe a dictator and establish the republic."
He advised against dethroning the king, narning dictators, and convoking the
representative assemblies.37 It was one integratcd thought. The oId Roman
institutions jostled in his mind side by side with the institutions of popular
sovcreignty, even while he advocated the rctcntion of the present one-rnan
rule called monarchy.
The foHowing month, Brissot dotted the i’S. The attack on “dictatOl's

'" Marat too took advantage ofLafayette'’s vu1nerability: he accused the Gir�ndins of
wanting to make Lafayette “dictateur suprême, sous le nom de protecteur.,, But for
Marat, as we will see, this was a tu quoque response.

1. From Rome to Robespierre


dictaíorial commission of the Commune of Paris" was dangerous because “it
would prolong the revolutionary means beyond the moment of crisis that had
made them necessary." Other Brissotins, like Girey-Dupré, likewise attacked
the “dictatorship" of the commune; and Delacroix warned that if Paris
“invested a provisional council with dictatorÎal authority" it would be isolated
from the country. 38
찌Te will Iikewise meet with references to the “dictatorship of the National
Convention," the most democratically elected assembly of the age. Plainly,
these were efforts to displace the odium that attached to one-man rule: to shift
the odium from t;le “one man" to the “rule"; to mix up the meaning 80 that
any strong revolutionarγ coercion would seem i1Iegitimate. The result, which
will be visible later on, was the weakening of the one-man meaning of the
Roman term.
Brissot was not the only politician engaged in this operation. Mirabeau
probably anticipated him when, in Iate JuIy 1789, the Assembly published a
proclamation urging the cessation of some recent public disorders. Mary
Wollstonecraft’s history of the Revolution relaíes that Mirabeau took the
After endeavoring to excuse the violence, or, more properly speaking, to
account for it, Mirabeau observed to the Assembly, “that they ought to
be thoroughly convinced, that the continuation of this formidable
dictatOl' would expose liberty to as much risk as the stratagems of her
enemies. Society," he continues, “ would 500n be dissolved, if the
multitude, accusíomed to bIood and disorder, placed themselves above
the magistrates, and braved the authority of tlle law." 39
The reference is none too clear, but Mirabeau was apparently calling the
“multitude" a dictator-doubtless as the wielder of extralegal coercion.
One of the works on the French Revolution that the young Marx studied
with the greatest care was the memoirs of the Jacobin Convention deputy
ReI생 L evasseur; we have Marx’s detaUed notes on it. Levassem" noted (in
passages excerpted by Marx) the attacks directed against the Paris commune
and against a number of Paris deputies “for seeking to organize a dictatorship."
The accusation was reprised later: “Indirect accusations that the Commune
of Paris is striving for a dictatorship." Two Girondin deputies “name
Robespierre as the candidate of tbe dictatorship." 4Q
We see, then, that the meaning of ‘dictatorsbip’ ,


Part 1: Dictatorsl,ψ: Its Mealling 111 1850


TiJus far we have seen a political game o f mutual recrimination around a
c u ss-word. But did anyone actually propose a “dictatorship"?
Perhaps Saint-Just did. He is quoted as saying that “In every revolution a
d i ctator is necessary to save the state by force or Censors to save it by
,, 1
virtue. 4 But Saint-Jllst does not seem to have pressed this view. Note that his
statement brollght up stiU another of ancient Rome'’s magistracies: the office
ofthe two εensors, who sllpervised the censlls and pllblic m orality, wielding
certain arbitrary powers.
T h e proposal of a dictatorship


pllt fonvard by Marat. It is difficlllt to

d iscllss his role brielly because his n a m e has been covered by thick deposits of
historical slander, a miasma o f falsifiction about his alleged bloodthirsty
desire for mass m u rder-the same libelous operation that has made a farce of
much history-writing about the “Em'agés. " AH we can do is make clear what
his view o f dictatorship really 、vas.
In their efforts to paint Marat l1S a gory wild man, hisíoril1ns often neglect to
mention thl1t he Wl1S one of the more erudite men of his society. Trained as a
p hysicil1n, he early becam e a scientific a u thority o n optics and electricity;
w h ile practising medicine in London, in

1 773 he published (in English) a

-which “shows a wonderful
knowiedge ofEnglish,
,, 42

Philosoplzical Essay 011 Man

French, G erman, Italil1n and Spanish philosophers
p h i losophy, politics, criminology and

-and other works on

mcdicine. He became one of the

prominent scientil1c men in France--before thc Rcvolution transformed his
and evcryonc’s life.
1 bring this up to stress that, to this eminent savant, there can be n o doubt



meant the old


l1nd not the blurry simulacrum of dirty

politics th a t the Girondins and Jacobins were kicldng back and forth Î n the
m odern m a nner.*
I n aD el1rly pronou ncement, Mar없 raised the q u estion o f how to save the
“ i n nocent" from revolutionary suspicion. He s uggested a way: “It is to name,
for a short time, a supreme dictator, arm him with p u blic power, and put him
in charge of p u nishing the guilty. 44 But this was orly one formulation o f his
싸 L R Gottschalk, 、vhose 1927 biography of Mamt is st피 considered the staHda떠
one in English, thought that Ml1mt must have gotten the idea fium Rousseau’'s Sod“I
Contract-fo r this histOlian had evidently never heard of the Roman dictatllra. He
literally did not Imow what the ar장ument was abouL The positive side of Gottschalk's
wOl'k was his refut'ltion of the lies and calumnies inVI없Ited or retailed by Brissot,
Michelet, et al.; also he finally 비d make clcar that Mar꺼t's “dictatorship" 、lVas “not of
the Caesarian 01" Napoleonjç type," and was “undeserving o f the condenmation that it
Ims brought upon Marat" This 、찌Il do untiI someone publishcs a half-decent 까'OI'k on
Marat in English.

1. From Rome 10 Rohespierre
proposal. I n a


1792 speech h e compiained that enemies “ascribe ambitious

views to m e by distorting my opinions on the need fo r a milital'y tribune, a
dictator, or a triumvi r.ate to p u n is h the i ntriguers
t h e proposal o f a “ faction":

• . ." H e denied that this was

T h e s e o p i nions [wrote Marat1 are m y personal o n es, a nd

1 have often

reproached ardent p atriots for rejecting this salutarγ measure, though
every m a n who knows the history of re、rolutions feeIs its indispensable
n eed, a measure that could b e taken without any drawbacks by limiting
its d u ration

to a Jew days,

a n d by Umiting the mission of the officials i n

c h a rge to the summaryp llu ishmel1t o f th e intriguers; for there is nobody i n
the world w h o is more revolted than


a m b y the establishmcnt o f a n

entrustcd even t o the p u rest .hands for a period of
' autho�ity
s o m e d u ration.4
Repeatedly Marat sought to make h is proposal explicit and c1ear as to its
Iimited cha ractcr:
After J u ly 14,


89 , i f there had been a single statesman in the nation’s

s e n ate, h e would have asked for the i n stitution o f the office of dictatOl',
elected by the people in

times of crisis,

whose authority would

last 01ψ

a n d whose d u ty would be to pwzish the bad citizens w h o
enda n!!:ered the lJ ublic s a fetv.

tlzree days,

It m u s t be u n derstood that this kind o f talk-the need to p u nish the counter­
revolutionary intriguers-was commonplace on all sides; what was particular
to Marat was his proposal for the appointment,

01' election, o f a special agent

a r m ed with special power to get this d o n e. Those named to wield the power of
tribu ne, dictator, triumvirate (choose your own Roman term) “did not have
to be clothed wÎth a ny authority; their mission to beat down the criminal
h e a d s o f conspirators raised above the sword of the laws did not have t o last
mo.'c than a day. After this ephemeral existence they would b e forever lost in
, 7
t h e crowd." 4

T h e National Co nvention, starting its existence i n late September 179양­

after the “September massacres" which Marat did


instigate-saw the

l a u nc h i n g o f a regular anti-Marat lynching bee by the Girondins, who caUed
for h is execution (being themselves, o f c o urse, h u m a n e opponents o f blood­
thirsty politics). D å n to n and Robespierre sought to head off the dogs snapping
a t their own hecls by j o i n i n g i n the cry against “dictatorship" and in the
d e m a n ds for guillotining its advocates; thus they stabbed Marat in the back as
h e stood a t bay. Robespierre naturaUy knew that h e was the Girondins’ target.
B a rb a ro u x s h o u ted, “The p l a n for a dictatorship does exist!" and pointed
over M a r a t’ s ‘lead to the C o m m u n e of Paris. Marat took the

0001' amidst this

t u m u lt a n d cries for his blood, a n d , 、,vhen his speech was finished, the lynchers
h a d stopped s h o u ti ng.


Part 1: Dictatorslzip: Its MeanÌng ÌII 1850
00 the “ dictatorship" issue, Mal'at proudly stood up alone:
T h ey [my e n emies] have dared to accuse m e of aspiring to the tribunate
. . . Well, 1 must injustice declare that my colleagues, namely Robespierre,
D a n t o n , and alI the rest, have continually disapproved o f the idea o f
either a tribunate 01' a triumviraíe 01' a dictatorship. I f anyone is guilty
of having fl u n g these ideas out a mong the public, it is I .

He added : “1 believe 1 a m tl1e first political writer, perhaps t h e only one i n
France since t h e Revolution," t o m a k e this proposal. I n t h e s a m e vein, h e
assu med that “ t h e people" was itself a “dictator":
. . . i f you impute criminal con d u c t to me, the people would contradict
you; for, obed ient to my voice, it felt tl1at the means 1 proposed was the
sole way o f saving the country, a n d , having itself become dictator, it was
able to get rid of traitors.
T h e con n otation o f ‘'dictatorship’, o n e sees, was emergency authority outside
of normal forms. Marat continually used all the old magistracies inter­
c h a ngeably: “1 have several times p roposed to give i mmediate authority to a
、vise and strong man, under the appellation of tribu n e of the people, dictator,
etc.: this b ootless title is of no acco u n t." In su mmary he said:
H it was a crime to propose dictatorship i n the cond itions 1 laid down, 1
alone am responsibJe for this proposal, for 1 alone have made the

proposal, and supported it; 1 alone still support it.
In April

1 793 Marat was hauled before a court in the Girondin d rive to

m u rder him legally, but he successfully defended himself against the charge o f
being (as he put it) “a factionalist, a n anarc hist, a bloodthirsty and ambitious
m a n w h o aimed to get supreme power u nder the title o f tribuße, triumvir,
dictaíor . . . " But the drive got him m urdered nonetheless: Charlotie Corday
told her interrogators that she had n ot killed a man but a “ ferocious beast,"
, 50
w h o “ u ndertakes civiI war in order to get named dictator.' P u She knew that
because s h e had read it in the papers.

Marat’s repeated Iimitation of h is proposed “trib u n e, triumvir, dictator,"
01' whatever, to a matter of days, with I'estricted authority, was more significant
than may appeal'. An examination of his statements Oß the q u estion indicate
sh'ongly that Ize neverclIl'isioned tlzis proposcd ojjicial {/s tlle hc{/d ofgol'crnmcllt Î1z {/Ily


including a tempol'31γ o n e. Yet historians have tended to assume tl1at

‘d ictatorship ’ means dictators

1. From Rome 10 Robespierre


It is by violence [said Marat) that liberty ought to be established, and
the moment has come to organize temporar:iIy the despotism of liberty
in order to wipe out the despotism of kings.51
“Despotism"-a word with as checkered a history as ‘dictatorship’-mennt
coercion, extralegal coercion, in this context, not tyranny; nnd unqucstionably
Marat had in mind the use of all means of coercion to cnforce thc “despotism"
(or dictatorship) of “ liberty."* It was not this that separated him from his
colleagues; rather it was his caU for the vesting of this powc." in the hands of a
singIe appointed agent. If Jacques Roux is accuratcly quoted as saying that
“ Dictatorship is the allllihiIation of liberty,,, S2 it was undoubtedly one-man
rule that he especiaIly feared.

There is stiH another contrast to be made in order to bring out the meanÎng
of ‘dictatorship’.
As we havc discussed, the close modcrn analogue of the Roman dictatorship
is martial law. At the same time that the right wÌng of the French Revolutiol1
exprcssed horror at Marat’s caU for an energetic special power to repress
counterrevolutiol1, it instituted in practice the fmm of the dict,“tura callcd
martial law-as an antidemoc:ratic dcvice. In the months after the fall of the
r‘Inning thc Paris municipality,
Bastille, the εouncU of Thrce
of a bal{er’s murder to get martial law established
seized the
Assembly. A municipal officer could invoke martial law by hoisting a red
after which an assemblage of citizens (“crowd") had to disperse 01'
shot 011
the spot; ringleaders could be jailed for years or executed.
In aU of the Palis press, del1sely populated by souls hOll'ified by caUs for
“dictatorship," only Marat protested this law; in the Assembly, Robespierre
(but not as a matter of principle).5 3 In 1791, in response t o an incident
(“rowdy" demonstration) in a working‘class area, BailIy and
to make an example: the martiaI-law
was hoisted; the bourgeoisie’s
National Guardsmen i.llvaded the Champ-de-뼈ars, and opened fire; a Ilumber
* It was Rob엉pien'e who is bcst Imo‘,vn for tlle statcment, “The govemment of‘ tbe
Revolutioll is the despotism of libel명l over ηnmny. Was fm앵 meant only to protect
crime?" 쩌.cport to 상le Convention, F1뼈uary 5,1794.) He was justifying “h정뼈”’as an
instrument of 피>crty or 샤'l-anny. “TClτor" is onc of 셉le ‘f짧뻐 words" that are
completely misunderstood nowadays: in tbe contcÀ1 it m않nt the use of coercive tÒl뼈
by the authorities to inspire fear in maIefactors. The various ways in which 었 might be
implemented al'e not a pal't of the definition of tbc tcnn. It is fur성lcr discllSSt>d in
Spccial Note C.


Part 1: Dictatorshψ: Its MeanÎng În 1850

were IdIled 01' wounded, and many were j a iled.5 This, of course, was not
“ d idatOl'ship" but the maintenance o f Law and Order-by ruthless blood­
letting. There is no record that the bloodthirsty monster Marat ever had
a nyone s hot.
As m e n ti o n ed, Robespierre himself regularly denounced dietatorship and
d ictators. Fillally, in his speech of self-exolleration on the 8th Thermidor, with
his Ileck alrcady 011 the block, h e had some illteresting words to say about the
a u ra o f the word dictature:
However, this word ‘dictatorship’ has magical effects; it stigmatizes
liberty; it vilifies the governmcntj it destroys thc Republic; it degrades
all the revolutionary institu tiolls, which are presented as if the work of a
single rn a n ; it traduces national j ustice, which is presented as if instituted
for the a m bition of a single m a n ; it concentrates at o n e point all the
hatreds and aU the daggers of fanaticism and the aristocracy. What
terrible use the cnemies o f the Republic have made o f j u s t the name o f a
Roman magistracy! And .if their erudition is 50 fatal to us, what about
their treasuries and intrigues?55
T h e double refcrence to “a single m a n " Îndicates that Robespien상s repudia­
tion o f dictatorship was bascd on thc o n c-man defillition o f the term. T h e
dosÎllg reference t o “erudition" emphasized that t h e term appeared t o h i m a s
essentially historical. T h e “terrible u s e " t o which it w a s put w a s Iargcly
effected by an excrcise in meaning-shift through political demagogy dirccted

agaillst democraζJ', not against dictatorship i n our modern sense.


half-century later, Marx wrote (in a leticr to Engels) as i f the men o f

the French Revolution used t h e term ‘dictatorship’ i n a Wlly simillll" t o h i s own.
He 、vas discussing thc fact that the RobespiciTist govcrnment and its Committee
of Publi(‘c Safcty misírustel‘d the P‘0이lli s h nationl‘alι-1'‘‘evγ’o야lu띠ltiO아HI“a’U'‘3γy Icade
x얘n 179써4 1 Ma없U.X 、w‘vrη때.0‘ot떠e야1 t디띠hcy s u m moncd thc reprcsentative 01" the Poli야l
insurgcnts before them llU엉
t야hc fo여!lo;、wing (앵} u cst디io이I1S to t디h피l퍼is “citoyell "
“Ho、w does it
’CI1 that your Koscil‘Ilszk‘‘o is a pop‘u띠!lllr d‘lictat“m‘01" llH띠
Iye t야 1 to띠lera“tes a k‘illg llt his side, OIlC morco\'cr who, he must be 11、war’.c
that your dictator
、was p u t 011 the throl1e by Russia? How docs it
docs 1I0t cUl'ry out a Icvy cn massc of the p,c a s a n ts . ‘ . ? "
8 0 0 11 , with
a n i ndictment o f thc Polish

I n viewing the nationa성..cvolutionury Kosduszko as a “popular dictator"

in a benign scnse--that is, a lcadcr who 1135 mìsumcd popular }Jower through
e mergcncy forms of govcrnmc!‘t-Manr: was
had 1101 becn adopted

the Frcnch

thc tcnn in a fashion that
which had become

familiar ill Marx’S own time. H camc il1to use after the rise of the socialist
m ovemcnt iu thc early nin ctecnth centmγ

in th<� twentieth.

thcn suffcred virωal obliviol1

1. From Rome 10 Robespierre


W e will n o w see that the h istOlγ o f self-conscious “revolutionary dictator­
s h i p " begins with Babeuf, that is, at the ve깨 s a m e moment that modern
socialism begins.


We are going to see, i n the next chapter, that 1 848 was the turning point in
the h istory of the term ‘dictatorship’, o r rather the starting point o f its modern
h istory. But even in that year, naturally, it did not appear out of nowhe,'e. Let
us see what led up to 1 848.

Dictionaries can give only an approximate idea of how a word was actually
used at a given tÎme, b u t the main trouble is that they run ten to twenty years
behind usage. Following the French Rcvolution, French dictionaries continued
to give only the Roman meaning 영‘dictature, as if nothing had happened. The
formulatiolls of the pre-Revolutionary lexicographers were repeated by
Laveau x in 1 8201 and by Philipon de L a M a d e l in e’ s 1 823 abridgment of the
Acad emy’s dictionary. 2
I f we look a head, we flnd the
reflected in the post- 1 848
d ictionaries, though we have to keep in mind that their compilers had seen
much nonlexical action in the meantim e. For what it is worth, we can note
that in 1 863 Lith'é recorded the t3ct tlmt llictatul'e had a second meaning in
addition to the Roman one:
(2) In moderll times, absolute powe,' p‘aced tempomrily in the hands of
ι man o r al1 assembly. La llictature de la C01!pen!Ìon.3
Still looking a h ead: by 1 870 Larousse’s Gram[ Dicti01Uzaire wil\ have an artic1e
on dictature which is a politic“I cssay embracing modern Ì1ÎstOlγ, emphasizing
the institution’s temporary and emergency naturc and distinguishing it sharply
from dcspotism.4 Littré’s cxample, “ th e dictatorship of the National Con­
、rention" of the FI'ench Revolution, is su fficicnt to show how the meaning had
shifted from thc original Roman conception of one-man rulc to something its
very opposite: the “ dictatorship" 01' a popular hody. By the time this appeared

2. Socialism and Dictatorshψ: Tlze BegÎlmÍlzg


in Littré, it had in fact cxpanded to embrace the “ dictatorship" of a whole
section of the pcople, indeed of the majority of the people.*
In the mid-1830s great prominence was given to the tradition of the Roman
dictaturα by a novel that gained so much popularity, and was translated so
widely into the European languages, that it can be treated as an event in iís
own right. This was Bulwer-Lytton’s RienZÎ (which inspircd yOUl1g El1gels to
start writing al1 opera Iibretto abouí a year befol'e Wagner did the job). The
entranced public read about the man who clothed his rule in Rome first with
the title tribune, then sel1ator, both as remil1Íscences of the al1cient empire. Of
the “proud name of Senator," the novelist wrote, “The authority attached to
the name seems to have had no definite limit; it was that of a stern dictator, or
an indolent puppet, according as he who held it had the po、ver to enforce the
dignÎty he assumed." Laíer on, the populace wants to cmwn RÏenzi king; he
rejects the title in the name of “Iiberty." One of the “ people’s" leaders says,
“ B u t . . . Rome must endow you with a Icgal title--if not that of κing, deign to
accept that of Dictator 01' of Consul." RÏenzi rejects thcse too: “Dictator :md
Consul are the appellations of patricians." He assumcs the title of �ribun옹-and
it is perfectly cIear that whatever the title, dictator 01" tribune 01' scnator 01'
whatever, the power would be the same. There was no special virtue 01' vice in
“ dictator." Further on, the pope is refcrred to as the dictator of Rome.6

But of course we are specially interested here in how the term ‘dictatorship’
was used by the early socialists a n d communists. This part of the hisíory
begins exacHy where the history of the sociaIist movement begins: with
Babeuf's “Conspiracy of the Equals," the fu엉t organized socialist 01. communist
group. Now the importance of this episode, for OUl. present purposes, does oot
lie with the Babouvist enterprise itself, but with the book which told about it,
and thus educated a generation of Jacobin-communist activists who populated
the secret societies of the 1 830s ílnd 1 8405. In 1 82 8-in good time for the
revolution of 1 830-Buonarroti, o n e of Babeuf’s lieutenants, published his
* In sp ite of all the events of the twel1tleth century, this meaning is with us still. While
wor따ng on some aspects of the present WOI.K in 1974, 1 listen얹 to a news broadcast on
television, which reported that Vice-president Gerald Ford was telling Republican
gatherings that if the Democrats elected a“veto-proof"Col1gn:ss the result wouki be a
“ Iegislative dictatorship," by which he m않nt that the legislatt‘re wo띠d become more
powerl퍼 than thc executive. No one thought that his language was odd. 1 dare say that
this usage can ’Je hearτI quite often. It is the “dictatm하lip of the majority of people" aJ�
overagain, invented bythe rlght wing of the FI1않ch Revolution 1:0 attaint the democracy.�


Part 1: Dictatorship: lts Mealling ìll 1850

acco u n t o f the movement; and in 1 836 the Chartist leader Brontenre 0’Brien
p ublished an E n glish translation.
Buonarroti’s report on the internal discussions of the “Secret Directorate "
of the Babouvist movement laid sharply before its readers the question of a
transitional revolutionary regime. He provided the first textbook on this
q u estion ; for a long time, the only one. Its great significance cannot be
The existing government must be overthrown; the aim is the establishment
o f the 1 793 constitution, the most democratic 80 far d evised-agreed. But the
directorate had to res이ve the “ thorny" q u estion: “what fom1 of authority
wou!d be immediately substituted for the authority whose destruction was
i n tended." It was agreed that the “primalγ assemblies" calIed for by the
constitution could not be immediately calIed i nto being; between the Însurrec­
tion and their installation there had to be an interval; yet “it wouJd be
extremely imprudent to leave the nation for a moment without dkector and
guide." H was not j ust a question of how long it would necessarily tal{e to
convoke the assembly; there was another consideration-and this lies at the
center of our interest.
The Secret DÍI"ectorate was convinced of the following proposition:
. history and the experience ofthe French Revolution had taught it
that the sure effect of inequality Îs to divide the community, create
opposing interests, foment hostile passions, and subject the multitude,
whom it makes ignorant, credulous, victimized by excessive toil, to a
small n u mber o f trained and skillful men wl1o, abusing tl1e preference
tl1ey 、vere able to win, worked only to preselγe and reinforce, in the
distributiol1 of goods and advantages, the order that is excIusively
fa、lorable to them; from which it concIuded that a people so strangely
kept away from the natural order was scarcely capable 01' making useful
choices, and had need of an extl'aol'dinary means that would retum it to
a state of affai엉 whel'e it would be possible for it to exercise the
plenitude 01' sovereignty effectively and 1I0t fictitiously.
From this way of thinking arose the plan to replace the existing
government by a revolutionary and provisional authority, constituted
in such a way as to forever shield the people from the innuence o f the
natural enemies of equality, and give it the neceSS31γ will for the
adoption of republican inst


Socialism and Dictatorsltip: The Begimzillg


simply faced a problem and devised a n honest solution. T h e social order was
bad because it corrupted the people, and one consequence of this was that the
people could oot emancipate themselves but had to b e emancipated from
above, from outside, by a band ofliberators who themselves had somehow
remained u ncorrupted.
Buonarroti himself not only reported this “way of thinking" but strongly
agreed with it. In his own name he formulated it even more sharply:
T h e experience o f the French Revolution and most particularly the
troubles and vicissiturles of the National εonvention have, it seems,
sufficielltly shown that a people whose opinions have been formed
u nder a regime of inequality a n d despotism is not well suited at the
begi n n in g of a regenerating revolution to designate the men charged
with leading and consummating that revolution. This task can belong
only to wise and courageous citizen s " " " "
I t was necessary for the revolutionary leadership, “even oot o f respect for the
real [in the Platonic sensej sovereignty of the people," to b e concerned not
\vith “gettin g the votes" but rather w i th “ making s u re that tlte supreme
authority faUs, as little arbitrariIy as possible, i n to tlte hands of wise and
strong revolutionists." s
When the Secret Directol'ate asked wltat fonn should be taken by the
revolution a ry authority whose task it was to superintcnd the new ordcr, they
d eb a te d three answCl's: (1) the recaU of a rump Nationlll COllvennon; (2) the
creatÌon of a dictatorship; and (3) the estahlishment of a new rul.ing body. It
was easy to reject the first. By tlte sccond, “ dictatorsltip," thcy meant one­
m a n rulc; a n d thcy rejected this term. Thcir decision felI to the third, which
meant that the Provisional Authority would be named by “the Paris insurgents,"
that is, by the revolunonary band in the capital-thereby incidentaLly impIe­
menting t h e Babou‘rist-Blanquist traditioll favoring the dictatorship of Paris
over France. At all the steps in ratiocination, they were concerned to argue
that “This system was in harmony with the sovereignty of the p eople." T h is
sovereignty, however, was temporarily in hock, and o nly the revolutiomuγ
band hcld the ticket. Buonarroti was aware tl1at enemies would not sec it
p reciscly the right way: “It was foreseen that the cunning enemics of equality
would Ílγ to raisc thc inhabitants of the departéments [the provinccsl against
what they would not fail to calI the tra까pling by tlze Paris briga1tds over the rights 01
tlze sovereigll. "’
T h e two who proposed a dictatorship sans plzrase, Debon and Darthé,
argucd from esscntially the same ground as the majority. Buonarroti reported
their views with a great deal ofsympathy. There ai"e few passages i n early
socialist history more important than the following:


Part l: Dictatorship: lts MeanÎlIg ill ]850
Debon a nd Darthé, who proposed dictatorship, attached to this
word the idea of all extraordill3l)' authority, entrusted to a single man,
charged with the double function of proposillg 10 tltepeople simple legislatiol1
suitablefor assuring it equaliψ and the real e.r:ercise 01sovereigllty, and o f
prol'Îsiollally dictating theprepal'atory measures that illclilled tlte natioll 10 take it
Oll. I n their view, a task so important and a udacious, which could not b e
fulfilled except by d i n t of a perfect u nity of thought a n d action, must be
conceived and executed by a single head. ln support o f their view, they
invoked the example of the peoples of ::mtiquity, and recalled the fatal
conseq u e n ces of plurality, of which they saw recent evidence in the
divisions within the Committee of Public Safety.
It seemed to them that the dangers of the abuse that might result
from such a magistracy could be easily avoided by the well-Imown
virtue of the citizen who would assum e it [i.e., Babeufl, by the c1ear and
legal exposition o f the aim to be attained, and by the limits set to its
d u ration.in advance.
In this system the task of the Secret Directorate would be reduced to
sketching the aim of the reform in a few articles, fixil1g a term to the new
magistracy, searching out the most virtuous citizen o f the republic, and
getting its plan adopted by the Parisian insurgents.

T h e link with the Roman example was quite c1ear. To the above exposition of
the views of Debon and Darthé, Buonarroti added a I10te of his own, whose
words still reverberate down the histolγ of socialism:
To what must o n e reasonably aHribuíe the loss of democracy and
liberty in France if 110t to the diversity of views, the opposition of
interests, the lack of virtue, unity and perseverance in the National
Conventioll ? It is not, it seems to me, to p reserve but to establish
equality among a corrupt nation that one needs a strong and irresistiblc
a uthority. H is to be presumed that if, in the years n and HI [ 1 793-1795 J,
o n e had had the wisdom to il1vest a mall of Robespierre’s stamp with
the dictatorship pl"Oposed by Debon and D a rthé, the revolution would
have achieved its true aim.
According to Buonarroti, the Secret D irectorate did recognize the vlllidity of
thc a rgument in favor o f a dictlltorship, but drew b:?�k belore “ the dìfficulty of
choice, the fear- of abuse, the apparent resemblllnce of this magistracy to
royalty, and, above all, the general pl'ejudice that it seemed impossible to be
victorious." I t took Cllre of the corrupt people i n other Wlly용-for example,
with P’ a n ned d ecrees on freedom of the prcss, including thc following two:
( l ) No o n e can put forward opinions contrary to the sacred principles
of cquality and the sovereignty of the pcople . . . .
(4) Every writing is printed and distributed if the conservators of t�le
n ational WiIl j udge thãt its publication can bc useful to the republic. 1 l

2. Socialism afUl Dictatorslzip: Tlze Begbmillg


It must be u nderstood that there was no demagogic talk by Buonarroti 01'
the other Babouvists about a dictatorship of the People, Populace, Proletariat
01' other appellation for the corrupted population that was to be weaned to
socialism. T h ey knew that they were fo1' a Socialism f1'om Above, and they
confronted their own views without hypocrisy.
Even more th:m Babeuf, it was Buonarroti who exemplified this pattem
most plainly-an d it must be remembe1'ed that it was Buonarroti 、vhose
career constituted the real link between the Babouvist episode of 1796 and the
b u rgeoning of the Jacobin-comm u n ist secret societies after 1830. E. L.
Eisenstein, who has given us the most detailed portrait of “the first profèssional
revolutionist,"emphasized that for B u onarroti “the working population played
a s ubordin ate a n d evell an incidcntal rolc" in his revolutionary plan. Thc
“ proletariat" mcan t the mass of the poor (“the most nllmerolls cIass"}-a
good reservoir f01" barricade-fodder, for the troops who were to be wielded by
the revolutionary elite. He rcjected the idea of basing the cause on class
interest; he had no confidence whatever in the capacity of thcse proles to
emancipate themsclvcs; thc “ Fourth Estatc" had to be appcaled to in tcrms of
(ugh!) material interest becallse of the corruption enforced by ceníuries of
s e rv Î t ll d e.J 2
I n Buonarroti’s view, experiel1ce had shown
that the people are incapable of either regenerating themselvcs m' of
designating the people who mllst direct the regeneration. That bcfore
thinkÌl1g of a Constitution 01' of fixed laws, it is necessarγ to establish a
reforming or revolutionaQ’ govern ment on other bases th:m those of a
regular a n d peacefuI liberty. 13
This provided the theory o f the Edllcational Dictatorship:
Midst the coHapse of free institutions, midst the gcncral corruption of
sentimel1ts ol1e cannot fin d
fuíurc regcneration save i n a secrct
corps guided by a p u re a n d dictatoriaI allthority
. 14



His model i n polHical thcory was explicitly the Jesuits, who (he argued) have
used thcir methods for
while we must Ilse them for Good. “ The Jesuitical
eongrcgation can be compared to an army flllI of entlwsiasm and submissive
by conviction to a homogeneous a n d absolute authority." He advocated “an
equivalcnt army" which howevcr wOl.lld
rather than fo1'
it. He d e noll n ce


Part 1: Dictatorship: lts Meaning in 1850

This is not said censoriously. We are, after all, dealing with the infancy of a
movement, and to say that this movement had an infantile view of dictatorship
is no more to condemn it than to point to a baby’s difliculty with toilet
training. If, a century and a half later, a movement stiU holds to the same
infantilism, the solution is still not simply to condemn it but to provide

T h e Babouvist movement was the flrst incarnation of the Jacobin­
cOllllllu nist current in the pre-1848 blossoming of all the socialist-comlllunist
tendencies. This was the cllrrent that was typically organizM in the communist
secret societies that proliferllted, especially in Frllnce, . u nder lellders like
B1anqui and B a rbès.
Thc Jacobin-colllmunist groups adopted the Babouvist idea of dictatorship
as their orthodoxy. O n e can read in a communist catechism of 1839 (used by
the proseclltion 3t the trial following the p u tsch of that year led by B1anqui
and Barbès):
ltfs unquestionable that after a revolution accompIished in behalf of
our ideas, there will be created a dictatorial power whose mission it will
be to direct the revolutionary movement. This dictatorial })ower will of
n ccessity base itse!f on the assent o f the armcd population, which,
acting in the gelleral interest, will evidently represent the elllightencd
will of the great majority of the natioll.
To be strong, to act quickly, the dictatorial power wil! have to be
concentrated Î11 as small ã n unlber of persons as possible.
Particularly in later hisíorians’ shorthand, this tendency has cOllle to be
called “ B1anquist " as a gcneric name. As a label for the type, “ Blanquist" is
u nobjectionable, provided one Îs not led to think that a “ Blanquist" was
necessariIy a follower of Auguste Blanqui. Barbès, for example, became a
bitter e nemy of B1anqui; others simply organized separately.
O n e of our problems is the fact tl1at the “Blanquist" label was given much
of its currency around the end of the n ineteenth century by the Bernsteinian
revisionist campaign to pin a derogatolγ label on Marx’s carly revolutionlllγ
views. According to this historiographic rnode, the revolutionary currents of
the thirties and forties were Blanquist, therefore Blal1quism was revolutionism,
a n d it 1'ollows ineluctably that revolution'ism was Blanquism; hence if Man
was a revolutionary when he wrote the C01ll11l1111ÎSt ManiJesto, the Manifesto was
“Blanqu ist"-Q.E.D. Yoq will find this contribution to socia!ist history in


2. Socialism and Dict,αtorship: Tlte BegÈllllÎllg

Bernstein’s El'olutionaη) SocialismP It is the starting point of the B1anquist
O n e o f the consequences of this line o f thought is that historians knew j us t
where to look for t h e origins of the ‘dictatorship o f t h e proletariat’ concept:
B1anqui. B1anquism stood for dictatorship, didn’t it? 80 B1anqui m ust have
invented it. And since we have j ust learned that Marx used to be a “B1anquist,"
there c a n be no doubt whel'e he got it fmm . . .
T h e only trouble with this proposition is that, factually speaking, everγ
word is false: the “ dictatorship of the proletariat" cannot be found anywhere
in B1anqui eithe r as a term or an idea. B u t the lack of a singl e validating fact
has stopped n o one from making the standard c1aim that the dictatorship o f
t h e proletariat is “Blanqu ist" i n origin.
G . D . H. C ol e, for example, asseríed that Bhmqui “ stated the doctrine of
the dictatorship o f the proletariat much more clearly than Marx ever d i d "
even though he knows of nowhere that Blanqui ever statcd this “ doctrine" a t
aIl (as his failure t o annotate indicates). 1 8 Isaiah Berlin went even further: “The
dictatorship o f the proletariat was adumbrated by Babeuf i n the la5t decade of
the eighteenth century, and was explicitly [note: explicitlyj developed i n the
n in eteenth i n different fashions by Weitling and B1anqui . . . . " No note, n o
facts. 1 9 I n h i s well-known Era 01 ηramlÊes, Halévy took a special tack-he
merely asked q u estions:


The Marxist doctrin e of the dictatorship of the proletariat comes, does
it not, in a straight line from Babeuf, the last survivor of Robespienism?
Was not Karl Marx, in Paris before 1 848, very definitely influenced by
B1anqui, who revived the thcOlγ of Babeuf?20
T h e a n swer is: no and no; but Halévy, yOIJ see, had not committed himself.
D i d H alévy know that Marx “ i n Paris before 1 848" never met B1anqui, who
furthermore was not i n Paris but i n prison? Never mind, thc “ Blanquist"
spirit was hovering over the rooftops of Paris, tainting everything with
“ Bl a n quism" that came within spitting range.
Sombart likewise was too clever to commit himself: in IlIlUsually vulgar
terms, he spoke of “ that crazy notion, worthy only of a Blanqui, of the
dictatorshi p of the proletllriat." Lewis L. Lonvin was oll e of the few who
pu rported to point to a definite locus i n Blanqui, viz., his famous Instructio1ZS
pour une Prise d껴rmes: “Accordillg to this


Part J: Dictatorshψ: Its MeallÎng in 1850

Real a uthorities on Blanqui’s m.itings have left no doubt about the facts.
Alan Spitzer, the American authority on Blanqui, writes: “ Blanqui had often
been credited with coining the p h rase, ‘the dictatorship of the proletariat’� but
n o one has ever been able to docum ent his use of i t upon any occasion." 22 Th e
leading E u ropean authority is Maurice Dommanget, who has devoted several
books to a minute examination of B lanqui’s works, including his unpubIished
malluscriptS. Besides, Dommanget is gellerally allxious to turn Blanqui into a
proto-Marxist at any cost, and would be delighted to turn up even a micro­
scopic piece of evid ence to prove B lallqui’s priority.* B u t Dommanget has to
report that “ dictatorship ofthe proletariat" is “a tenn that Blallqui does not
u se." D isappoill ted, he adds that B lanqui’s “London friellds" used the term
“jointly with Marx" in 1850 (we will describe this usage in Chapter 12, locus
2)-but Marx had already used it p rcviously. So not only does Dommanget
know no use of thc term by B lanqui, he also knows of none by any other
Blanquist, other than the cases involving Marx which we will discuss. 23 It can
be added : outside of the word ‘ dictatorship’ itself, he clearly knows of n o
formulation b y B1anqui that can be p u mmeled into the shape of ‘dictatorship
of the p roletariat’.
The ideological drive behind the B1anqui myth has been explained, but
such myths also need a starting point, after which they are copied from one
work to another. T h e starting point in the present case may weLl have been
R. W. Postgate’s Iively bool{ of socialist historical sketches Out ofthe Past
섭 923), wh ich contains the longest attcmpt 1 Imow ofto make a case for the
“ was the first to fonnulate and act upon the theOlγ of
claim that
proletarian dictatorship." Z4 Postgate’s evidence dissolvcs o n examÍnation.
His key statcment is that he dates Marx’s first use of the term llt 1875 (Critique
ofthe Gotha Prαgrα111, locus 9), whcl.eas “ Blanqui’s advocacy is to be dated i n
t h e 1 860s." Neither statement i s true. Marx’s first use was in 1850; as for the
occu rl"cnces of the term bciween 1 850 and 1 875, Postgate is ignorant of some
and dis mÎsses othcrs on incomprehensilJle grounds that are of 00 interest now
to document his u l1reliability. As for B1:mqui: Postgate’s asc‘치ltion of
the term to him “in the 1 860s" is simlJlv an error. Here is his ca
described this as the first
o f th e revolution Îs
Where he
Postgate doesn't know.] It is quoted as his
uncertain. [In other
behveen two other
in 3n lJistoÎre des B!tmquistes
Da εosta.
ph rases which are easily traceable as . his. But this author gives 110
authorities for his q uotations, and 1 have 110t been able to tracc it in the
illcomplete works of Blanqui which 1 have been able to sellrch. Neverthc­
less, there is n o reason to doubt Da εosta’s good faith, nor crtn the

For a notc on the nature of Dommanget’s tcndelltiousness, see Special Note D,

Section 7‘

2. Socialism and Dictatorslzip: The BegimlÌllg


words have been written much after 1870 (probably m uch earlier), in
which case 1 imagine Blanqui’s c1aim to have formulaíed first the most
deadly point in the modern Bolshevik program m e is established.25
T h e original c1aim about “ the 1 860s" fades out almost as soon as stated.
B u t as a matter of fact Charles Da Costa’s history Les Blanquistes (to give it its
correct titIe) does not coníain any statement answering Postgate’s description.
What it does contain (as we wiU report latter) is a statement by a group o f
Blanquist refugees from the Paris Commune, in London, using the term.
Obviously it had to date from the 1870s. Undated in Da Costa-hence
Postgate’s vagueness perhaps-“ it was actuaIly published in 1 874. It is harder
to explain, even as a mistake, Postgate’s reference to something “between hvo
other p h rases." Perhaps this reflects the fact tl1at tl1e Blanquist statement o f
1 874 does indced revolve around three p h rases which give t h e documcnt its
structure: we are atheists, we are commwlÎsts, we are revolutionists, proclaim thc
B l a n q u ists, and they devote a section to each. The passage mentioning the
dictatorship ofthe proletariat is in the third section. And it does oot refer to
B l a n q u i.
Postgate cites a nother Blanquist programmatic document from thc same
period, the brochure Internatiollale et R깅volution (1 872), which we wiU also not
fail to d escribe later. While in any casc the London Blanquist docl.lm el1ts of
this period have nothing to do with proving Blanq u i’s “priority," we wiII see,
when we return to this material, tl1at these London refugees had by this time
taken the term from Marx, not vice-versa. O u tside of Postgate there is no case
for the Blanql.list myth wo1'th refuting.
But if Blanqui did not actl.laUy I.Ise the term ‘
of the proletariat’,
isn' t it true tl1at he holds priority on the idea-for 때idn’t he advocate a them:γ
o f dictatorship?
(1) He certainly did propose a dictatorship as the
of revolutionary
action, b u t without
it was the conceptiol1 common to Jacobin­
c o m m unism in the thirties and forties, derived fl‘om the Babouvists via
Buonarroti-the conception of the Educational Dictatoa'ship. Blanqui, who
was not a thcoretician and did not
otherwise, had 110 ideas on the
reference to “
’s clai m "
s ubject o f his own devising.
Îs a nother Ïnvention of his.) The o n ly d


Part J: Dictatorship: lts MeallÎlIg În 1850

m ovement," but rather the dictatorship of the leaðers of the revolutionaIγ
(2) In BlanquÎ’s view, the desired “revolutionary dictatorship" would not
be “ of the proletariat," in any sense of the last word. Blanqui made no
hypocritical noises about implementing the rule of the masse웅-who, after all,
would have to go through a long weaning process before their societal COITuption
could be burnt out. In the immediate sense, the operational sense, the
dictatorship would be the rule of the conspiratorial band, j ust as it was for the
B abouvists. 、Nhen Blanqui attempted a larger view, he came up 、피tl1 a
perspective which is clearly limned in a strildng passage ill his malluscripts:


T h e bourgeoisie Îllcludes a ll eIite minority
it is the essellce, the
soul, the life of the Revolution
찌'110 has planted tl1e flag of the
proletariat? Who has rallied it after its defeats? Who leads the people to
battle against the bourgeoisie?-The bou rgeoisie itself. They wi\l cease
only after having led the Revolution to the viCtOlγ o f Equality. But what
is the device on its banner? Democracy? No-the proletariat. For its
soldiers are workers though the leaders are not.27


This was an honest statement of what a “working-c1ass orientation" meant i n
t h e Jacobin-communist milieu : “its soldiers are lVorkers tlzouglz tlze leaders are 1101. "
H e formulated the same pcrspective i n a passage of his Critique Sodαle:
Thousands of the élite Iivc in conditions of extreme miseIγ . . . Thcse
déclassés, invisible age n ts ofprogl'ess, are today the secret ferment which
sustains the masses and prevents them fl'Om sinking to a condition of
im potence. Tomorrow they will be the reserve force o f th e Revolution.28
version of revollltionary dictatorship--the
τhis was the llsual
“ dictatorship of thc revolutlollury gang." Of course, it was supposcd to be a
d ictatorship 011 bchalf of, 01' in the intel'est of, the People; and this too was an
honestly held view, Ilot an exercise in demagogy.
(3) Ind eed, the term ‘ dictatorship of the pl’oletariiαt’ is irrelevant to an
u n derst:mding of Blanqui.
‘proletarian ’ he meant virtllally anyone except
the small Ilu mber of aristocrats and exploiting bourgeois, as Spitzer points out
cogently. 2 9 This is what was behind Blanqui’s fllmous reply to the court when
Hsked his occup!ttion: “ Proletllrian." He exp’ained the term as “one o f the
thirty milli

2. Socialism and Dictatorslzψ: The Begbwillg


revolutionary Paris over the rest o fFrance."30 This concept was enough, by
itself, to doom any B1anquist insurrection; it was alien to Marx and Engels. As
it h a p p ened, it came up in their con'espondence in 1869, when the B1anquist
G ustave Tridon p ublished his brochure Gironde et GirolldillS. “ Confused,"
thought E ngeis, especially 00 the iss u e of centralization and decentralization.
“ Comical is the conception that the dictatorship of Paris over France, 011
which the .first revol u tion [of 1 789+] came to gdef, could once again be carried
o u t without a d o and with some different result."31 T h e troubles of the Paris
C o mm u n e two yfars later demonstrated the principle again. In his notes
preparing for the writing of his Civil War ill Frallce, Marx included a clipping
from the Commune’s Joumal Officiel for April 1 which strongly renounced
Parisian h egemony ove‘. the cOllntry and championed the aim o f commllnal
self-government and local independent alltonomy.32 This was echoed in
Chapte r 3 ofMarx’s address, with even greater emphasis and greater detail.33
To ascribe the “ dictatorship of the proletariat" conception to B1anqui is
worse than a mistake: it is an irrelevancy. We will return to Bial1qui and
Blanquis m in Chapter 9.

4 . U τ 。 P I A N S AND D ICTAτ。RS

The Baboll、IÎsts, as the first socialist movement in history, hold the patent
00 many aspects o f the sociaHst enterprise, but they 、vere 110 t ÎI1 the least
peculiar in lil1king Socialism from Above with a fonn of the Educational
all 5ort!> o f socialists/commu n ists it was common­
new regime needs the nest of
virtually si andard-to believe that “
came in 1 848 from E mile
dictatorship in order to be h씨ched."
who was about as socialistic as bis s uccessor i n bis
de Girardin, a
radical-demagogue d ays.)34
T h e innovaíors of Utopian socialism were aU inventors of Socialisms from
.i\ b ove,
the very natl.lre of theÍl' 앙pp‘ oach. SaÎnt-Simon was prolillc in
schemes for dictatorial regimes in which some man of power would impose the
latest Saint-SimonÎan
UpO!1 a
Ileople. If h e did not use the word
(1 don’t know) the fact is of
lexicographical i nterest.
communism, was
of a “ UU::>1>u,u,," whose name and address
for the
needed Uttle d ivimltion. In his b est-따lOWIl
o f the notion of dictatorship
Freedom ( 1 842), h e testified to the
a m o n g the comnmnists of the time:


Part 1: Dictatorslzip: [ts Mealling ÎlI J 850
Communists are still p retty u ndecidcd about the choice o f thcir form of
govcrnment. A large part of those in France inc1ine to a dictatorship,
because thcy well know that the sovereignty of the pcople, as understood
by republicans and politicians, is not suited for the period of transition
from the old to a completely new ol'ganization. Owen, the chief of thc
English com m u n ists, would have the performance of specific dutics
allotted to men according to age, and the chief leaders of a government
would be the oldest members of it. AII socialisís with the exccption of
the followers of Fouriel', to wl10m all forms of government are the same,
are agreed that the form of government which is called the sovereignty
of the people is a velγ unsuitable, and even dangerous, sheet anchor for
the young principle of communism about to be l'ealized,35

We will see in Chapter 3 that Weitling was consistent: back in Germany
d u ring the 1 848 revolution, he 105t no time in proposing a dictatorship quite
There were other, lcsser fìgurcs who were j ust as frank: for example, “ that
commu nist ex-pl"iest PilIot-later to be found in the I"anks of B1anqui’s
followers-who, a few years before 1 848, ended one of his books with the
thrcat that if mankind did not want commu nism it would be forced to accept
it, j us t as the inmaíes of an insane asylum had to take shower baths whethcr
they wanted them 01' not 36 'We may remark at this point that the Însane­
asyl u m a nalogy was not Pillot’s eccentricity. That velγ sensiblc man Robert
Owen wrote that, such was the irrationality of society, the “ speediest mode"
to remedy things “will be to govern or treat all society as the most advanced
physicians govern íll1d trcat their patien ts in the best arnmged lunatic
hospitals," naturally with all “ forbearance and kindness."37 This is i10t
essentiaHy different from the Babollvist view of the consequences o f societa!
corruptioll. But it is doubtful whether Pillot 01' Owen 01' their like would
identify this benevolent approach with the word ‘dictatorship’, whkh wOllld
be considered at all only by radicals conccrned with the q uestion 01' a
“ tnmsitional" revolutionary regime.
The Saint-Simon i:m tendel1cy led by Barth성�my Prosper Enfantin 、vas not
o n e of the socialistic groups intenscly cOl1ccrned with the “ transitional"
q u estion j and as far as 1 Imow, the word ‘dictatorship’ seldom croppcd up in
their literatllre. (Their own terms for their Maximllll1 Leader tended to ‘pope’
and ‘ messiah’.) But right after the “July Re、'olution " of 1 830 which brought
then still head o r the sect, 、vas swept
Louis Ph ilippe to the throne,
쩌ong to the Hotcl de ViIle by Enfantin, and there proposed to the liberal
leader Lafayette that he “ take the dictatorship" lllld thus make it possiblc to
clean IIp the whole mess. Latel', after the October 1 832 trial of‘ Enfantin and
Olinde Rodl챙lIes o n trumped-up swindling charges, an ullsiglled article in
the grou p’s press closed with thc fo!lowing thought: granting that a j udicial

2. Socialism and Dictatorslzip: Tlze Begùming


system is necessary for society in order to oversee morality and fen'et o u t evil,
stillB u t w h o today can lay claim to this permanent dictatorship?
This “ dictatorsl1ip" was the j udicial system itself. The link in meaning with
the old dictatura had i ndeed become tenu ous.38
Among the French utopians o f the period, easily the most political o f the
groupings was tl1at o rganized and led by Etienne Cabet. The Cabetist, or
“ Icarian," tendency called itself commu nist, since alone among the utopians
it s to o d for a thorough sort of communal ownership of prod u ction, and it was
also d istinctive in orienting itself towar d a working-class public. Cabet openly
advocated a “ dictato.'ship" as his proposal for a transitional regime.
Cabet’s d ictatorship was set fmih ‘ight in the pagcs of his basic tcxt, the
utopian n ovel Voyage en /carie (1 840)‘ Here the wh이e grand social goal is
im plemented by a dictator, clearly so called. He succeeds a “tynmt." “ Happily,
the d ictator elected by the people, the good and courageous Icar, turned o u t to
be the best of men!" As dictato1', Icar p roposes 야le Community System to his
fell ow citizens o f Icaria. The Ica1'ian assembly establishes festivals to com­
memo rate the victory o f the dictator over the tyrant, and the third annual fête
is “ that o f the dictatorship." There is a long “ h istoricaI" section glorifying
Icar’s work as dictator. At 생e festival o f the d ictatorship, a splendid agit-prop
spectacle is organized 011 the style o f Hitler’s Nuremberg ci1'cuses. 쩌‘h e
gratefu l masses cry, “ Icar the dictator!" over a n d ove1'. W e are triumphantly
told that every detail of the show has been p1'escribed by law. How fortu nate
the Icarians wcrc “ to find a d ictator who sincerely wished their liberty and
prospe1'ity"! “ Behold Washingtol1, the Dictator and A mel'Ïcan Ica1'! "
T h e statement that Ica1' was “ elected" seems to be al1 imprecision, fo1' the
election apparently tal<es place by acclamation i n a paroxysm of j oy. The
dictator issues the plan for the election o f a National Assembly, and evelγthing
naturalIy is adopted unanimously. The plan calls for a “transitional period" o f
fifty years