One erroneous understanding of dialectics consists of seeing it as a process characterized by the steps “thesis antithesis synthesis”. This is an error that Mao Zedong tried to avoid in stressing that there is no such thing as the “negation of the negation”.
In France, such a way of seeing dialectics is very traditional, one of its most important promoter being Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, whose “French Socialism” is a “synthesis” of private property and socialism understood as thesis and antithesis.
In fact, it is Fascism who intervenes in unifying antithetical poles. The famous Chinese document on “1 becomes 2” is here very useful to reject the “2 becomes 1” principle.
According “French Socialism”, and we have to include Anarchism and Trotskyism in it, the “revolution” is the product of the collision of the bourgeoisie and the working class. Fascism reunites both, whereas Anarchism and Trotskyism pretend to overcome them, in “democratic socialism”, “libertarian communism”, etc., which is nothing else than a petty bourgeois conception.
In reality, according dialectical materialism, every process is a unity, a synthesis, consisting in the unity of the opposites. The bourgeoisie and the working class are not moving to a “collision” : the French revolutionary syndicalism is here a terrible caricature of such a misconception.
The bourgeoisie and the working class are two opposites of the same unity, of the same process, which was defined by the great Karl Marx as a mode of production.
The socialist revolution is therefore not an idealist struggle of one opposite against another, but the material expression of the failure of the mode of production. The working class can not “decide” to make the revolution – it is a part of the mode of production, mode of production which is united and which is limited in time, because of inner transformations of reality itself.
Let's quote Mao Zedong which is very precise here:
“The socialist system will eventually replace the capitalist system; this is an objective law independent of man's will. However much the reactionaries try to hold back the wheel of history, eventually revolution will take place and will inevitably triumph.”
“Changes in society are due chiefly to the development of the internal contradictions in society, that is, the contradiction between the productive forces and the relations of production, the contradiction between classes and the contradiction between the old and the new; it is the development of these contradictions that pushes society forward and gives the impetus for the suppression of the old society by the new.”
In this second quote, we have to understand that the contradiction between the old and the new is the universal law of matter in movement. In our case, the contradiction between the productive forces and the relations of production is the main aspect, the contradiction between classes is the secondary aspect, its own base being the main aspect.
The contradiction between classes is not “abstract”, with metaphysical classes being “thesis” and “antithesis” like revolutionary Syndicalism and Leftism try to explain it.
There is actually a mode of production, as unity of opposites. This mode of production plays a progressive role, and then decays, like we can see with the “contradiction between the productive forces and the relations of production”.
This contradiction makes mature the always more antagonistic relationship between the classes.
This is a vary basic teaching of dialectical materialism. It explains here why the Chinese democratic revolution didn't suppress the bourgeoisie, as the material conditions didn't permit to proceed so.
In the same manner, the democratic antifascist People's Front proposes an alliance of different non-monopolistic classes which is absolutely impossible to understand for people seeing class struggle as a conflict between a “thesis” and an “antithesis” which should be overcome to a “synthesis”.
In fact, with the capitalist mode of production, we have already a new unity (of opposites), a synthesis, and socialism is a new synthesis overstepping the old one. Communism will also be a new synthesis overstepping the old one, i.e. socialism. The process shall be eternal.
But what about the dictatorship of the proletariat, then? Is it not a conception belonging to the perception of class struggle as a “collision” between a thesis and an antithesis?
Absolutely not. It is wrong to consider the dictatorship of the proletariat as a proletarian “antithesis” to the bourgeois dictatorship “thesis”, before the socialist period of the “synthesis”.
Of course, we can see precisely how Anarchism and Trotskyism uphold this erroneous conception.
The dictatorship of the proletariat is not a negation of the negation. It is a part of the socialist mode of production in itself. It is a process of reorganizing the society, on all levels, with dialectical materialism taking command in every field.
It is incorrect to imagine that the dictatorship of the proletariat is a transition before socialism – it is actually a part of socialism itself.
Lenin, in the classical State and revolution, teaches us here that:
“Engels expressed this splendidly in his letter to Bebel when he said, as the reader will remember, that "the proletariat needs the state, not in the interests of freedom but in order to hold down its adversaries, and as soon as it becomes possible to speak of freedom the state as such ceases to exist".
Democracy for the vast majority of the people, and suppression by force, i.e., exclusion from democracy, of the exploiters and oppressors of the people--this is the change democracy undergoes during the transition from capitalism to communism (...).
The expression "the state withers away" is very well-chosen, for it indicates both the gradual and the spontaneous nature of the process. Only habit can, and undoubtedly will, have such an effect; for we see around us on millions of occassions how readily people become accustomed to observing the necessary rules of social intercourse when there is no exploitation, when there is nothing that arouses indignation, evokes protest and revolt, and creates the need for suppression.
And so in capitalist society we have a democracy that is curtailed, wretched, false, a democracy only for the rich, for the minority. The dictatorship of the proletariat, the period of transition to communism, will for the first time create democracy for the people, for the majority, along with the necessary suppression of the exploiters, of the minority. Communism alone is capable of providing really complete democracy, and the more complete it is, the sooner it will become unnecessary and wither away of its own accord.”
The dictatorship of the proletariat is not an antithesis, a “military” abstract necessity, but always a component of the next mode of production: socialism. In the 1970's we could see how Guevarism defended armed struggle as a technical “solution”, an “antithesis”, whereas Maoism proposed People's War, i.e. armed struggle always connected to the task of giving birth to the new society, through red zones where the social relations are changed.
Guevarism proposed militarism, Maoism proposed militarized liberated areas – because for Maoism, i.e. the third stage of dialectical materialism, the dictatorship of the proletariat is no “antithesis”.
Therefore, to avoid the mistake of admitting an abstract “thesis antithesis synthesis” conception, we shall have in mind that the synthesis is a process. It exists only insofar as it advances, through the dynamics of the unite of the opposites.