By Reece Lawton
I will be making extensive use of Lenin’s work ‘The State and Revolution’, as it is one of the best works concerning the nature of the state.
To all libertarians, right or left wing, the state is an evil, as it is authority. What’s more, it is not just authority: it is the supreme authority. The state has ‘special bodies of armed men’ (as Lenin put it) at its disposal, to enforce obedience. The state, above all else, limits liberty, so it must be abolished once and for all, in one fell swoop. In this text, I hope to explain what the state is, and what socialists must do following the socialist revolution. This text is also an attack against all of the ideologies that claim to be libertarian, and to expose them as idealistic.
The state is a tool of the ruling class to oppress the other classes. In capitalism, there are two main classes: the proletariat and the bourgeoisie (well, there is the petit bourgeoisie, but they’re irrelevant and their numbers are shrinking). The bourgeoisie uses the state and it’s instruments (police, army, etcetera) to oppress and exploit the proletariat; the bourgeoisie is the ruling class, the proletariat is the exploited class. The interests of the supra classes conflict- the bourgeoisie wants to exploit the proletariat as much as possible, whereas the proletariat’s interests are to seize the means of production for itself, abolish the bourgeois state and become the ruling class, thus ending it’s exploitation.
What’s stopping the proletariat from seizing power? First and foremost, class consciousness, but let’s say that every proletarian was aware that they would be better off without the bourgeoisie, and that they were willing to revolt against their bourgeois masters. The main obstacle then would be the state. The police, the army, the air force, drones, missiles, etcetera. The state is a tool for one class to oppress and exploit another-
“A standing army and police are the chief instruments of state power.” (Lenin).
“The ancient and feudal states were organs for the exploitation of the slaves and serfs; likewise, “the modern representative state is an instrument of exploitation of wage-labor by capital.” (Kautsky)
Anarcho-capitalists advocate the abolishment of the state, but insist on keeping capitalism (try to suppress your laughter!). The state no longer exists, people get to keep what they earn and no person has to pay taxes ever again! It’s a capitalists dream!
Or is it?
If this is the best form of capitalism, why have the capitlaists not abolished the state and built up monopolies? Imagine the aforementioned situation of there being no state, but capitalism still thrives.
Say there arises the situation where international trade is wanted. Quickly they discover that a group is needed which will represents the national trade-interrests and will ensure a trade-advantage for it’s members.
Libertarians will say that there is nothing wrong with that. Still, it is the first step towards a new state!
The trade-organisation won’t work for free in a capitalist world and so they will begin to demand pay.
Contribution will be asked with it’s members, what will mean that non-members will receive no benefit. We then stand at a situation where benefitted collegue’s are providing unfair competition.
Again, Libertarians will argue that it is not unfair and that traders and entrepeneurs are free to join the organisation.
So, the non-members are more or less forced to become a member, if they want to stay in business. Once a member, they too will have to pay contribution-fee’s, which will rise and rise because it is cheaper to represent a smaller group, than it is representing a larger group. The represeting organisation will have to grow to be able to cope with the ever growing expectations of it’s members.
Then we arive at the inevitable point where the members discover that not only they, but also the civilians benefit of the organisations actions. Now two things can happen, since the members will want to get back the costs of the contributions through the civilians. They will they raise prices (an obscure version of taxes), or they all will decide to directly charge the civilians. In other words, taxes.
And so we arive at the current situation where all civilians and traders/entrepeneurs are forced to pay a representing group. What has actually changed? Terminology. “Taxes” becomes “contribution” and “the state” becomes “the representation” or “the organisation”.
So Libertarian ideas revolving around their version of a free market are a paradoxal idea and will never work.
Now that we have exposed right wing libertarianism as the moronic ‘theory’ that it is, we shall move onto left wing libertarianism (or anarchism).
The anarchists propose the State’s immediate abolishment, overnight; we Marxists counter propose that such idealism is pragmatically impossible, because the proletariat would need to crush the bourgeois resistance through a mechanism, and that is the state. Only a fool would say that the bourgeosie would not try to regain its power, and only a fool would say that we do not need an army to defeat the reaction! Anarchists present Makhno and his peasant army as a shining example of how anarchism can defeat the counter revolution, but upon analysing Makhno’s anarchism falls apart. Makhno’s army was a tool to oppress the bourgeoisie, was it not? And the councils set up under Makhno served the peasantry, a class, in it’s conquest against the bourgeoisie! I say that this constitutes a state, and also that Makhno is a reactionary. Why? Makhno’s army was not made up of proletarians and oppressed peasants like the red army was- Makhno’s army was made up of Kulaks, who owned horses and had been exploiting peasants for centuries! Upon analysis, Makhno is revealed to be a petit bourgeois nationalist.
Were the State immediately abolished, without the “conditions leading to the arising of the State” being abolished as well, a new State would appear, and the socialist revolution would have been for naught.
What should we do?
In the event of a socialist revolution the proletariat through the dictatorship of the proletariat must establish a proletarian State (per the 1871 Paris Commune model), then suppress the dissenting bourgeoisie. The proletariat must use the state ruthlessly to suppress the reaction, crushing all dissent towards the new rule of the proletariat. For the proletariat, this state will be one of democracy. Soviets and workers councils will take the places of parliament and bosses- i.e. the proletariat will have total political and economical control.
“This shows more clearly than anything else the turn from bourgeois to proletarian democracy, from the democracy of the oppressors to that of the oppressed classes, from the state as a “special force” for the suppression of a particular class to the suppression of the oppressors by the general force of the majority of the people–the workers and the peasants.” (Lenin)
For the bourgeoisie this new state must be one of terror, which they live in fear in of, it must be the most brutal state to have ever existed. The proletariat must create bodies of armed men for the sole purpose of expropriating and crushing the bourgeoise, until they are no longer a class, that is to say, there are no more bourgeois.
In achieving the withering away of the State as its institutions begin to “lose their political character”. Once the proletariat has no bourgeois left to oppress, the state becomes a burden, and the proletariat abolishes itself as a class, thus propelling humanity into communism, ending the class antagonisms and the state, giving people complete liberty and equality to live how one wants.
“The proletariat seizes from state power and turns the means of production into state property to begin with. But thereby it abolishes itself as the proletariat, abolishes all class distinctions and class antagonisms, and abolishes also the state as state. Society thus far, operating amid class antagonisms, needed the state, that is, an organization of the particular exploiting class, for the maintenance of its external conditions of production, and, therefore, especially, for the purpose of forcibly keeping the exploited class in the conditions of oppression determined by the given mode of production (slavery, serfdom or bondage, wage-labor). The state was the official representative of society as a whole, its concentration in a visible corporation. But it was this only insofar as it was the state of that class which itself represented, for its own time, society as a whole: in ancient times, the state of slave-owning citizens; in the Middle Ages, of the feudal nobility; in our own time, of the bourgeoisie. When at last it becomes the real representative of the whole of society, it renders itself unnecessary. As soon as there is no longer any social class to be held in subjection, as soon as class rule, and the individual struggle for existence based upon the present anarchy in production, with the collisions and excesses arising from this struggle, are removed, nothing more remains to be held in subjection — nothing necessitating a special coercive force, a state. The first act by which the state really comes forward as the representative of the whole of society — the taking possession of the means of production in the name of society — is also its last independent act as a state. State interference in social relations becomes, in one domain after another, superfluous, and then dies down of itself. The government of persons is replaced by the administration of things, and by the conduct of processes of production. The state is not ‘abolished’. It withers away. This gives the measure of the value of the phrase ‘a free people’s state’, both as to its justifiable use for a long time from an agitational point of view, and as to its ultimate scientific insufficiency; and also of the so-called anarchists’ demand that the state be abolished overnight.” (Herr Eugen Duhring’s Revolution in Science [Anti-Duhring], pp.301-03, third German edition.)
Edit: To be frank, this is poor. There are some parts where I should have written a lot more, and other parts where I resorted to straw men. I plan to update it later.