Is the support of the majority of the population necessary for the socialist transformation of society? Or should a revolutionary party or organisation be prepared to take power without such support and hold on to it even against the wishes of most of the people? The issue, pivotal to socialist debate on democratic theory and practice, divided revolutionaries a hundred and fifty years ago as it divides them today. [...]
Setting down the essential differences between Marxism and Blanquism, Engels wrote in 1874:
From Blanqui's conception o f every revolution as the coup de main of a small revolutionary minority follows of itself the necessity of a dictatorship after it succeeds: the dictatorship, of course, not of the whole revolutionary class, the proletariat, but of the small number of those who carried out the coup and who are themselves already in advance organised under the dictatorship of one or a few individuals.'
Here is expressed the essential difference between the dictatorship of the proletariat conceived by Marx and Engels to be carried out by 'the whole revolutionary class', and Blanqui's revolutionary dictatorship to be exercised on behalf of the working class by an elite. It was Marx who first used the term 'dictatorship of the proletariat', which he saw as constituting 'the transition t o the abolition of all classes and to a classless society'. Contrary to widespread belief, there is no record of Blanqui ever having used the expression, although some of his followers were to do so at certain times, notably in 1850, under the influence of Marx. [...]
Also available in the Marxists Internet Archive: https://www.marxists.org/archive/johnstone/1983/xx/majority.htm