Draft Programme of the RCP, USA 

Draft Programme Part 2

Proletarian Dictatorship, Democracy and the Rights of the People

Having seized power through a wrenching process of struggle, involving tremendous heroism and sacrifice on the part of millions of people, the proletariat will suppress any attempts by the overthrown bourgeoisie and counter-revolutionary forces to restore the old society, with all its horrors for the masses of people.  Not to do so would be a monumental betrayal of the masses of people, not just in the particular country but worldwide, and of the proletariat’s historic revolutionary mission.  And the exercise of this dictatorship by the proletariat over the bourgeoisie is absolutely essential for and makes possible the carrying out of radical changes in society which represent the highest interests of the masses of people and ultimately of all humanity.

The Class Character of Democracy and Dictatorship

So long as classes exist, democracy can only be class democracy. And so long as the bourgeoisie and the proletariat exist, society can only be organized on the basis of either the bourgeois (capitalist) mode of production, or socialism. There is no middle way.

The bourgeoisie will always and everywhere fight relentlessly to defend and extend its ability to exploit the masses (and to restore that ability when it has been deprived of it); and that means it must and will exercise the most ruthless dictatorship over the masses.

The proletariat also aims to defend and extend the production relations that it embodies—socialist production relations—and the political and social institutions that correspond to these production relations. To do this it must exercise dictatorship over the bourgeoisie, and do so no less relentlessly and thoroughly. But, at the same time, the dictatorship of the proletariat is and must be radically different from any previous form of the state.

First of all, it is dictatorship by the masses—it is the masses of people who are and must be relied on to suppress the overthrown bourgeoisie, and any newly arising exploiters, and to prevent the restoration of the old oppressive order. Second, this proletarian dictatorship represents and makes possible unprece­dented democracy and rights for the masses of people. Finally, and fundamentally, the aim of this proletarian dictatorship is not simply to fortify the position of the proletariat, led by its vanguard party, as the ruling class in society. Rather, the aim is to carry forward the transformation of the production and social relations and the political institutions as well as the thinking of the people in order to advance, together with the proletariat and masses of people worldwide, toward the final goal of eliminating class distinctions and all oppressive divisions in society. And with that will come the elimination of the need for the dictatorship of the proletariat itself—for any state, and any specialized and institutionalized bodies of people to rule and administer society, apart from the people as a whole.

As discussed in the Appendix “The Party Under Socialism, and the Transi­tion to Com­munism,” this will occur through a complex, worldwide process marked and driven forward by class struggle within socialist society, in close interconnection with the struggle internationally; and the revolutionization of the leading institutions of socialist society—most especially the party—is a crucial aspect of carrying forward the overall revolutionization of so­ciety. Democracy in socialist society must be situated and understood in this context. Not only is it democracy that includes the vast majority of the people and is practiced on a far greater and more meaningful scale than anything practiced under capitalism, but it serves to streng­then the exercise of all-around dictatorship by the proletariat over the bourgeoisie and the advance to communism.

The Nature and Role of Democracy in Capitalist Society

Democracy in capitalist society, including the much-advertised “American democracy,” is a fraud. It is democracy only for and among the ranks of the bourgeoisie, which decides every major question and exercises a ruthless dictatorship over the proletariat and the masses of people in general.

It is true that, particularly in relation to the middle classes in the U.S., the bourgeoisie has been able to conceal to a certain degree the sharp edge of its dictatorship. Its world domination has enabled the bourgeoisie to throw some crumbs to significant sections of the working class as well as the petty bourgeoisie, and this has brought some relative stability to its rule.

But this overseas domination is itself defended by armed force and terror: the platform of democracy in this country—worm-eaten as it is—rests not on its Con­stitution or Bill of Rights but on the dominant position of the U.S. in the world system, its role as the leading exploiter of the masses worldwide, and on fascist terror in the oppressed nations. Ask a peasant from El Salvador or Guatemala who watched an army backed and “advised” by the U.S. murder her entire village; ask the parent of a child dead in Iraq because U.S. “sanctions” made medical care im­possible; or ask a revolutionary in Peru or Turkey, or dozens of other places, hunted down, tortured, and then either killed or imprisoned for years by police trained and funded­ by the CIA—they can testify to the foundation of “democracy” within the U.S.

Even within the U.S. itself, for all that the bourgeoisie prattles on about “democracy” and “human rights,” any serious challenge to its rule is met with vicious force.

Consider the consistent and merciless repression of the oppressed peoples in the U.S. and especially the bloody suppression by police, national guard, and army units directed against mass uprisings of Black people and others during the high tide of struggle in the late 1960s and early ’70s. Think too about the murder of dozens of Black Panther Party members and other revolutionaries, along with the jailing of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of revolutionary and radical activists. Look at how political protests are often brutally attacked by paramilitary police forces who use tear gas, rubber bullets, and other “non-lethal” weapons to maim demonstrators and who arrest and beat people indiscriminately. Recall the numerous economic strikes in which the police and even, at times, armed troops have enforced the “right” of the owners to continue production and fire the striking workers. Then the real picture of phony democracy and actual dictatorship for the masses in this country begins to become clear. And while the bourgeoisie makes a special point of coming down hard on any radical political expression from the proletariat, even movements based in the middle strata find themselves very quickly up against police spying, “black out” or distortion by the media, intimidation, jail time, beatings and even outright murder …once they depart from the tightly ap­proved limits of “dissent.”

The whole of U.S. history—from its foundation in genocide against Native peoples and the kidnapping and enslavement of Africans down to the present day —is one long chain of atrocities graphically illustrating Mao Tsetung’s analysis that “political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.”

In addition, the more or less “normal functioning” of capitalist society, upon exam­ination, reveals that the bourgeoisie and its representatives thoroughly dominate political affairs. They monopolize the ownership and use of the mass media and control access to vital information about political issues and world events. Further, the very division of labor of capitalist society determines that the millions of working class and other poor and oppressed people are prevented from having any significant voice in the political life of capitalist society. And again, should they attempt to do so—which necessarily brings them into direct confrontation with the capitalist state—the repressive forces of its dictatorship are ruthlessly unleashed against them.

In recent decades, the bourgeoisie has gone even further to enforce a day-in day-out atmosphere of repressive intimidation aimed against the proletariat, and especially against Black, Latino, and other oppressed peoples. The massive imprisonment of the youth; the rampaging and ever-present police in the ghettos and barrios; the use of the INS (Immigration and Naturalization Service, or “La Migra”) to turn immigrant proletarians into virtual outlaws: all this has been designed to break the spirit of those the bourgeoisie considers to be “social dynamite” and to pre-emptively repress any revolutionary movement among them. Beneath the facade of democracy lies the reality of dictatorship.

“But what about elections?” the bourgeois commentators say. “Surely the communists can’t deny that people can vote in America?” True, but these elections are really nothing more than rituals in which the masses are allowed to choose which political operative of the bourgeoisie will oppress and crush them. And the electoral process is used to “legitimize” that oppression.

Rather than threaten or even impede the power of the imperialists, the bourgeois election ritual actually strengthens them. These elections put the masses in a passive and isolated position, training them to confine their political aspirations and activity to whatever their masters see fit to allow. Soon people either become disgusted with “politics” altogether, or they are forced to lower their sights and give up any higher aspirations. No matter which candidate gets elected in these farces, the bourgeoisie and the capitalist system always wins.

Democracy for the Masses

With this understanding, the accusations of the capitalists that communists and socialist society stand for “the destruction of democracy” are hypocritical and turn the truth upside down. In fact, communists stand for, and socialist society represents, the destruction of bourgeois democracy—that is, bourgeois dictatorship over the proletariat and the masses generally. Further, socialist society will bring real and unparalleled democracy for the masses of people through the dictatorship of the proletariat over the bourgeoisie. The rights of the masses of people—which under capitalism are suppressed and curtailed and in essence come down to the right to be exploited and oppressed—assume a completely different dimension and are of a qualitatively higher order once the proletariat has overthrown the bourgeoisie and established its own rule.

First of all, the most basic right of the masses in the new society, which they can never exercise under capitalism, will be the right to be masters of society, in every sphere, and to transform it in their interests. On a basic level, for the first time ever, the masses will have the right to collectively join together to wipe out starvation, do away with discrimination, reorganize production to meet human needs rather than profit, and to make many other urgently needed and profound changes. This won’t be because of some law or resolution on paper but because the masses will have state power, backed by guns, and because the economic system will no longer be organized on the basis of private profit.

The masses will have the right, for the first time ever, to directly participate in struggle over the key political questions confronting society and in the actual administration of the state. They’ll have the right, for the first time ever, to exercise dictatorship over—to subdue and suppress—the forces who want to resurrect exploitation, who want to reverse the uprooting of white supremacy and male supremacy, who want to restore a situation where a relative handful control all the economic and political power, who want to revive the plunder of other peoples and nations.

But these rights of the masses and their role as masters of society must find expression in concrete policies and actions, above all in political life and struggle. The most crucial question for the newly established proletarian state is to draw the millions and tens of millions of working class and other formerly oppressed people into the task of exercising political power.

The essential role of the institutions and organs of the new power must be to draw the masses into administering everything from economic planning to the suppression of counter-revolutionaries. The means must be developed and the political atmosphere created in which the masses debate everything from the purpose and shape of educational institutions to how best to support revolutions in other countries. This will be a matter of combining the mobilization of the masses and mass movements with the development of organizational forms through which the masses, under the overall leadership of the Party, increasingly carry out the actual administration of the state and of society as a whole.

As pointed out in the Appendix “Con­solidating the New Proletarian Power, Developing Radically New In­sti­tu­tions,” the immediate aftermath of the seizure of power, with its high tide of mass enthusiasm, will witness a level of direct mass participation in political and social life, in making and carrying out decisions in every sphere, that today can hardly be dreamed of. Yet, huge as these immediate changes will be, they will also, in another sense, be only the first steps to where society ultimately needs to go—that is, to the mass administering of all spheres of society without the medium of a state.

Moreover, it has not proven to be possible to sustain people through every ebb and flow of social life at the same high pitch of enthusiasm of revolutionary times. On a deeper level still, socialism will inherit the legacies of capitalism, in which the proletariat has been both denied the training to master politics and administration and has been influenced by the methods and “force of habit” of bourgeois society.

Thus, the direct mastery of the masses over society cannot happen all at once, nor will it develop in a straight line. But it will be the policy of the state, through all the ebbs and flows of the class struggle during the socialist period, to progress as far as possible at every stage in doing this. And the more that society can dig up the soil of inequality left over from capitalism—as, for example, the difference be­tween mental labor and manual labor is broken down through many different policies and struggles—the more broadly and directly will the masses be able to rule.

Debate, Dissent and Diversity in Socialist Society

Our Party has seriously studied and learned a great deal from the proletariat’s experience in ruling society, both in the Soviet Union and in China, before capitalism was restored in each of those countries. This experience reached its highest point in China during the Great Pro­le­tarian Cultural Revolution, especially as regards widespread mass debate and struggle over the direction of society. The proletariat needs to learn from this experience, building on its positive points and taking them even higher.

Broad political debate and struggle throughout society must be an essential element of proletarian rule. To foster this, the state will make available to the ­masses of people the vast means of communication that have been previously monopolized by the bourgeoisie. Television, radio, printing presses, billboards and other vehicles for the expression of political views will provide time and space for groups and representatives among the masses to put forward and struggle over their ideas on the major political questions and social concerns of the day and on world affairs; and the masses as a whole will be organized, in the factories, neighborhoods, farms, schools, armed forces and so on to hear and debate these views and to struggle out these questions in general.

The Party will put great emphasis on fostering debate, dissent, and diversity in socialist society. It will certainly enter into and strive to lead the debate and struggle among the masses; at the same time it will take care to encourage an atmosphere where the masses freely express their ideas.

Specifically, the expression of views and opinions by the masses that are contrary to those of the Party will not be discouraged and in fact will be valued for whatever they raise that helps the Party and the masses to better understand things. Only when it represents the attempts of actual counter-revolutionaries to bring about the overthrow of the proletariat’s political power and restore capitalism will the expression of such views be suppressed. And in that case, too, the masses themselves will be relied on to struggle against, expose, and suppress such people and to distinguish through such struggle what are backward and mistaken ideas among the masses and what are actual attempts at fomenting counter-revolution.

The proletarian state need not fear dissent and, again, should value it. Dis­sent —even dissent coming from a fundamentally oppositional point of view—has an important role. It may bring to light—or shed new light on—important prob­lems or shortcomings of the socialist state.

In particular, dissent can play an important role in sparking debate and struggle over the unresolved contradictions and problems facing socialist society in moving towards classless, communist society. But unless it is clear that there is “space” for such dissent in society, unless people feel that they have room to disagree with those in authority, unless an atmosphere is created in which the ­masses actually grasp not only the possibility but the importance of their debating and wrangling over all the questions of the day—then any dissenting views and sentiments will be forced underground, the vigorous debate and struggle necessary to actually move society forward to communism will not flower, and the atmosphere in society will become lifeless and boring.

The question here is not whether the proletariat should exercise dictatorship, but how it should exercise it. The proletariat, with the leadership of the Party, must control the economy, as well as politics, the media, culture, and so on. But dictatorship and control by the proletariat need not mean, and should not mean, that no opposition is allowed. On the contrary, socialism can only advance to communism in an atmosphere characterized by vigorous and free-flowing debate and contention, which will greatly contribute to the identification, analysis, and resolution of contradictions on an ever higher level.

Selection and Supervision of Leadership

The basic principle that will be applied in selecting leaders and generally in governing socialist society will be democratic centralism. This combines the broad initiative of the masses and their exercise of the rights that have been discussed—most fundamentally their right to rule and transform society—with the leadership of the Party.

Political leaders and leading bodies will not be chosen in a contest between self-seeking careerists trying to promote themselves into positions of power over the masses and to establish economic as well as political relationships characteristic of capitalism—not, in other words, through the bourgeois electoral process. For one thing, thousands of revolutionary leaders will have emerged and been tested in the course of the struggle to seize power. Then there will be the ongoing process of selecting leadership once the proletariat has won power, including the constant need to get rid of the stale and bring forward the fresh.

Through consultation between the Party and the masses, leadership will be established and developed from the basic levels of society to the leading political positions in the national government. Leaders themselves will continually emerge and be tested and tempered from among the masses and mass revolutionary struggle.

The standard for leadership will be demonstrated devotion to the cause of proletarian revolution, the determination to grasp and apply the revolutionary science of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism in a living way, and the ability to inspire and lead the masses in the same course. The masses and mass organizations in every institution throughout the country will be relied on by the Party not only in selecting such leadership but also in politically super­vising it—struggling with and as­sisting leaders to stay on the revolutionary road, and replacing or overthrowing those who persist in taking the capitalist road.

In this context, elections will have a role as one means of selecting and developing leadership, and keeping it truly accountable to the masses. But the basic approach and objective will be to arrive at a consensus among the masses with regard to matters of leadership. All this will contribute to the overall process through which the masses, with the leadership of the Party, will increasingly master and transform all spheres of society; through which the masses will increasingly take up the functions that, in the initial stages of socialist society, are of necessity concentrated in the hands of Party cadres; and through which the need for the Party as a special, institutionalized body of leadership will eventually be surpassed and eliminated.

Supervising Leadership and Actively Engaging in Political Life

In supervising leadership, the masses will have the right—and it will be the policy of the Party and state to encourage and unleash them—to criticize their leaders, on any level. And more generally the masses will have the right to hold meetings, organize demonstrations, put up posters, go on strike, pass out leaflets, and so on—again, with the exception of actual attempts to promote and organize the counter-revolutionary overthrow of the rule of the proletariat.

To assist the masses in continually developing their revolutionary unity and in making the distinction between disagreements—even sharp ones—among their own ranks on the one hand, and the views and actions of counter-revolutionaries on the other, the Party will not only provide overall leadership to this but will establish and publicize basic guidelines. These basic guidelines would be along the general lines that ideas and actions should:

  • help to strengthen, not undermine, the dictatorship of the proletariat and the mastery of the masses over society;

  • aim to carry forward, not oppose, the socialist transformation of the economy;

  • promote unity, on a revolutionary basis, between different nationalities and between men and women, not division and inequality between them;

  • promote the further revolutionization of society and the advance toward communism, not the reversal of the revolution and the restoration of capitalism;

  • uphold proletarian internationalism, not chauvinism and nationalism;

  • strengthen, including through criticism, the leading role of the Party, not weaken it;

  • foster the ideology of the proletariat and the revolutionizing of people’s thinking, not the ideological poison of the bourgeoisie and the force of tradition and habit.

Of course, there will be many views and actions on the part of people who are by no means counter-revolutionaries and do not seek a return to the old society, which nevertheless fall on the wrong side of the general criteria outlined above. Lively, vigorous debate and struggle will make it possible to win such people over to the correct, forward course and to learn the most from their views, criticisms, suggestions, etc. The process of debate will also make it possible to drag into the light of day and deal firmly with the minority of people who are pursuing counter-revolutionary objectives, wherever they are—including, and of special importance, within the Party itself.

In line with the previously stated orientation toward and policy on dissent, the general criteria sketched out above will not themselves serve the purpose of determining which views can and cannot be heard—and people will not have to agree with these criteria in order to exercise their rights. Instead, the point of such criteria will be to strengthen the ability of the masses to determine the correct line of advance and unite around it and, in opposition to this, to identify the incorrect course and struggle against it, exposing in the process counter-revolutionary ideas, actions, and forces and moving in the appropriate ways against them.

As a general method it is important that such reactionary ideas be allowed in (or dragged into) the open air and exposed. Only thus can they really be thoroughly criticized and defeated. Only in this way, and not in a hothouse, can the masses increasingly grasp and apply revolutionary ideology and politics.

These basic rights and this general policy will not, however, be applied to the bourgeoisie and its agents. They and all proven counter-revolutionaries will be politically suppressed—by the action of the masses and the armed force of proletarian dictatorship when necessary. Put simply, they will be dictated over and will not be allowed to stage protests, organize meetings, and so on. This is not to say that no reactionaries will ever be allowed to speak in the media or even publish their views. The proletariat in power will make some allowance for this, using such material to strengthen the critical ability of the masses and to force leadership to take a hard look at things—including itself.

Bearing Arms in the New Society

The same principle—that is, of keeping a firm grip on state power while increasing the mastery of the masses over all spheres of society—will be applied to the question of bearing arms. Not only is it a fundamental truth that proletarian revolution can only succeed in overthrowing capitalism through the armed struggle of the broad masses, but in the same way the power established by the proletariat must and can only rest on the armed might of the millions and millions of the working class and its allies.

For this reason, under the rule of the proletariat, the masses will not only retain their arms but will be further trained in the use of various weapons. This, of course, does not mean that everybody will walk around with a gun strapped on, like the old Wild West movies, but that militias will be broadly organized, in factories, neighborhoods, schools—throughout society. Only the bourgeoisie, its agents, and other forces seeking to undermine and overthrow the new society will be excluded from this. And as for them, not only will they have no right to bear or use arms, but they will be the object of the armed dictatorship of the proletariat.

The role of these mass militias, in overall coordination with the regular revolutionary armed forces, will be to help safeguard the proletarian state against its enemies—both within the country and outside it, both those openly hostile to the revolution and those who claim the mantle of Marxism and often are even leading Party officials but are exposed as actual counter-revolutionaries.

Here a crucial question comes into sharp focus. The guns must be in the hands of the masses for the revolution to be made, defended, and carried forward. But this is not mainly a matter of whether the masses literally possess arms, whether they are organized into the militia, etc. All this is important, but most fundamental is the question of the political consciousness of the masses who possess these arms and who make up the armed forces and militia.

The masses must be educated and trained in the basic outlook and method of Marxism, in theory and practice, and enabled through both study and concrete political struggle to distinguish genuine from sham Marxism. Only through this process will they know what to fight for and what to fight against, what to uphold and what to suppress, what they should put their lives on the line to defend and what to crush—and only in this basic sense will the guns really, politically, be in the hands of the masses and will they be able to maintain their rule over society and revolutionize it in accordance with the class outlook and interests of the proletariat.

Legal Rights and the Legal System

The proletarian state will also put into place a new legal system, which will enable the masses to protect their interests and their rule in society while also protecting individuals who may be ac­cused of a crime. The capitalist legal system does not seek truth or justice, but functions to repress the masses, to settle conflicts among bourgeois forces, and to protect and preserve bourgeois property relations.

The proletarian legal system will involve and rely on the masses in actually getting at the truth of a given situation and determining what crimes have been committed and by whom, or the rights and wrongs of different disputes. At the same time, this will be combined with established principles to guide the search for the truth as well as to protect individuals from mistakes or abuses. And through the combination of representatives of the masses and leadership and experts in the legal sphere, there will be a process of continually summing up experience in this sphere and further developing and refining these principles and guidelines.


An important question that the proletarian state will have to deal with is religion and religious activity. The socialist state will uphold people’s right to worship and to hold religious services and will provide them with the necessary facilities and materials for doing so. Religious people will not, however, be allowed special privileges, nor will they be permitted to use religious activity as a means to promote reactionary political movements. The proletarian state will monitor and regulate their finances to prevent them from becoming a source of capital or otherwise employed in violation of the principles and laws of the socialist state.

When forces do arise within the new society who attempt to carry out counter-revolutionary political activities and/or the exploitation of the masses under the cloak of religion, they will be prevented from doing so and politically suppressed, together with counter-revolutionaries of all other kinds. But as long as religious people do not actively organize against the continuing revolution, they will be allowed to hold services and other similar activities.

At the same time, communists are atheists: they do not believe in super­natural forces or beings of any kind and instead understand that it is the masses themselves who, through taking up and applying the principles of Marxism, must and will achieve their own emancipation and continually advance humanity’s understanding of and transformation of nature. And further, they recognize that the role of religion is to instill in the masses the sense that they are powerless before the forces of nature, and those that rule over them in society, and to console them in their misery rather than arousing them to rise up and abolish the source of it through revolutionary struggle.

The Party, as the leading force of the working class and in the proletarian state, cannot and must not attempt to force people to give up religious beliefs. Rather, it must wage an ideological struggle over this question and rely on those among the masses who hold such beliefs to cast them off on their own. And this they will do, as they come to see—through the advance of the revolution, the masses’ increasing mastery over society, and their continually developing ability to know and change the world in general—that these religious beliefs are incorrect and, more, that they are a burden carried over from capitalism and the dead weight of backward tradition.

Therefore, the proletarian state will, on the one hand, uphold the right of people to believe in religion and, on the other hand, will propagate atheism and educate the masses in the scientific world view of Marxism in opposition to all religious beliefs.

Through the educational system and other means, the Bible, the Torah, the Koran and other religious works and doctrine will be analyzed and criticized with the science of Marxism. In this way—and in general through the process of ideological struggle and persuasion, together with the overall advance through the socialist revolution toward communism—the masses themselves will be enabled to break and cast away the bond of religion and other mental and material shackles and achieve their full emancipation.

This is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online:
Write: Box 3486, Merchandise Mart, Chicago, IL 60654
Phone: 773-227-4066 Fax: 773-227-4497

Este artículo se puede encontrar en español e inglés en La Neta del Obrero Revolucionario en:
Cartas: Box 3486, Merchandise Mart, Chicago, IL 60654
Teléfono: 773-227-4066 Fax: 773-227-4497