Lenin, to the Cheka (1920)

“Without revolutionary coercion directed against the avowed enemies of the workers and peasants, it is impossible to break down the resistance of these exploiters. On the other hand, revolutionary coercion is bound to be employed towards the wavering and unstable elements among the masses themselves.”

It could be argued that this position was forced on Lenin by the problems facing the Bolsheviks in the Civil War, but such an argument is flawed. This is for two main reasons.
Firstly, according to Lenin himself civil war was inevitable and so, unsurprisingly, Lenin considered his comments as universally applicable. Secondly, this position fits in well with the idea of pressure “from above” exercised by the “revolutionary” government against the masses (and nothing to do with any sort of “socialism from below”). Indeed, “wavering” and “unstable” elements is just another way of saying “pressure from below,” the attempts by those subject to the “revolutionary” government to influence its policies. It was in this period (1919 and 1920) that the Bolsheviks openly argued that the “dictatorship of the proletariat” was, in fact, the “dictatorship of the party”. Rather than the result of the problems facing Russia at the time, Lenin’s comments simply reflect the unfolding of certain aspects of his ideology when his party held power.

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