In my last post on “Terrorism and Communism“, I laid out a set of questions that I wanted to ask – the question of rule by the proletariat vs. rule by all classes equally, the question of rule by the proletariat vs. rule by a certain political party, the question of emergency powers vs. constitutional powers, and the question of means, justified by the end or not.
Now, the easiest of these questions to answer is the third – that of exercising emergency rule by exceptional powers, or abiding by the normal constitutional procedures. The reason it’s easy to answer is that almost nobody in the world seriously believes that the same tenor of political activity that’s appropriate in peace is appropriate in war.
For example, if the constitution prescribes a checking procedure that tends to take about 5 days, and the White Armies are 2 days away, the idea that the normal procedures should be suspended in order to make rapid decisions is fairly obvious.
So in that sense, the idea of a dictatorship of the proletariat, in the main sense that the phrase would have had in the 19th century, as meaning the ‘martial law’ of the proletariat, is easy to justify – it requires only the assumptions that 1) the situation resembles a warlike one, with hostile forces sitting ready to assault each other, and 2) that the victory of the revolutionary forces is desirable. If 1. isn’t obvious then hooray, we’re unrealistically lucky, and if someone doesn’t agree with 2., then T&C is hardly the book for them to be focusing on.
So this post isn’t really going to try and answer that question, with its obvious answer, it’s going to talk about moral goodness, and why sometimes, it’s a bad idea.