Hal Draper was a revolutionary socialist who played an important part in the Berkeley Free Speech Movement. For a short period, he had also been a member of the Trotskyist movement in the United States but then embarked on a more independent course.
His book "The dictatorship of the proletariat from Marx to Lenin" is a sequel to his magnum opus "Karl Marx' Theory of Revolution". Draper, while supportive of the Bolshevik revolution, nevertheless sharply criticizes Lenin. His sympathies seem to be with Rosa Luxemburg and the pre-1917 Trotsky. He also argues that Lenin on various points distorted the real message of Marx and Engels.
More specifically, Draper argues that Lenin deliberately misunderstood the expression "dictatorship of the proletariat". To Marx and Engels, this expression was simply a synonym for the workers' state. It simply meant the political rule of the working class. Thus, "the dictatorship of the proletariat" was compatible with a wide extension of democracy. Famously, Engels pointed to the Paris Commune as an example of the dictatorship of the proletariat. Draper further argues that Marx and Engels used "dictatorship of the proletariat" almost exclusively in anti-Blanquist polemics, counterposing it to Blanqui's notion of a minority dictatorship. Thus, the point of Marx' and Engels' expression was to emphasize that *class* rule (the rule of the majority class, the workers) was the immediate revolutionary goal, not rule by a small minority of conspirators.
Draper believes that Lenin had a very different notion of "the dictatorship of the proletariat". To Lenin, the important thing about it was precisely that it's dictatorial, in the everyday sense of that term (repressive, unbound by law, based on sheer force, etc). This was connected to Lenin's belief in a vanguard party, the real leaders of the "dictatorship of the proletariat". Draper also attacks Lenin's formula "the democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry", as previously unheard of, absurd, etc. (Here, he takes a clue from his erstwhile mentor Trotsky.)
I'm somewhat perplexed by this book. Somehow, it feels as if Draper is missing the point. His main emphasis is to prove that Lenin regarded the dictatorship of the proletariat as a repressive institution, while Marx and Engels (who were altogether nicer guys) simply meant "workers' power". But this is unconvincing, since Lenin too could use the phrase as a mere synonym to workers' power. Indeed, Draper is forced to concede this. Conversely, Marx and Engels certainly believed in the necessity of repressing the enemies of the revolution, as when they criticized the Commune for not taking decisive action against Versailles much earlier. Draper's juggling with Lenin quotations feels somewhat lawyer-like. The *real* difference between Lenin and the founders of Marxism was, of course, the notion of the vanguard party. Draper mentions this at various points, but never makes it his central case. The book therefore feels scholastic. Honestly, who cares whether Lenin in some obscure article wrote that workers beating up police during a riot are exercising "the dictatorship of the proletariat"?
This may not have been the "scientific" way of using the expression, so beloved of librarians at Berkeley, but it feels somewhat beside the point...
"The dictatorship of the proletariat from Marx to Lenin" probably tells us more about Hal Draper than it does about Lenin.