State and Revolution

State and Revolution

State and Revolution is a book written by Vladimir Lenin in August and September of 1917. It describes the role that the state plays in society along with the necessity of proletarian revolution. Written for a Marxist audience, Lenin spends much of the pamphlet criticising the actions of the social democrats that dominated the communist movement at that time as well as elaborating on the role of the dictatorship of the proletariat following revolution. The pamphlet is commonly regarded as one of Lenin's most important works and much of it forms the basis for today's Marxist thought.

In this work, Lenin clears up theoretical questions about the existence of the state after the proletarian revolution, citing frequently from Engels and Marx. In both a witty and intelligent language he deconstructs the arguments of anti-authoritarians, anarchists, social democrats, and reformists. The various stages of the progression of the revolution are discussed - the revolution itself, the setting up of the socialist commune that he also called the "lower stage of communist society", and then lastly the "higher stage of communist society" in which cyclic stabilization is achieved, and individual freedom is allowed to be expressed at its fullest.

Lenin also provides an excellent defense of Marx, both in Marx's theory of Communism and in the actual existence of Marx's theory itself. Lenin said that, when old revolutionaries die, the bourgeois are not content with labeling them enemies of the state, since that would still attract some radicals. Instead, Lenin says, they try to discredit their writings, to "desensitize" them, to "prove" how they were actually social-democratic, and to discredit "the revolutionary nature of Marx." He labels those who do so "revisionists." As he states in his own words on the first page of State and Revolution:

"During the lifetime of great revolutionaries, the oppressing classes relentlessly pursue them, and treat their teachings with malicious hostility, the most furious hatred and the most unscrupulous campaign of lies and slanders.

"After their death, attempts are made to convert them into harmless to say, and to surround their names with a certain halo for the 'consolation' of the oppressed classes and with the object of duping them, while at the same time emasculating the revolutionary doctrine of its content, vulgarizing it and blunting its revolutionary edge. At the present time, the bourgeoisie and the opportunists in the labor movement concur in this 'revision' of Marxism. They omit, obliterate, and distort the revolutionary side of its doctrine, its revolutionary soul..." [ [ The State and Revolution — Chapter 1 ] ]

Lenin also talks extensively about the State and its inherent nature. He says the state, at all times, is a tool for class oppression, which is where he agrees with the anarchists. The State was a creation out of the desires of groups of people to control each other, when their disputes and desires could not be halted in any other way. The State, whether it is a dictatorship or a democracy, will always remain a tool for the ruling class. Using dialectics, he says that even in a democratic capitalist republic the ruling class will never lose power, as it will maintain a complete stranglehold on the state, using "behind-the-scenes" actions instead of open actions in these stages. Universal suffrage, he says, is the best form of cloak for the ruling class, as it maintains an idealistic shade of freedom and democracy when, in truth, such attributes do not exist.

Lenin claims then that the only "remedy" for these ills is socialist revolution, and that is where he breaks off with the anarchists. He disagrees on two points with the Anarchists:

1.) Anarchists say the immediate abolishment of the state is an ideal. Lenin claims that such a thing is impossible, as the proletariat will immediately set up its own state, and any attempt to intervene would prove fatal.

2.) If the state were abolished immediately without the "conditions leading to the arising of the state" being so, Lenin claims that a new state would simply pop up and the revolution would have been useless.

Following these conclusions, Lenin says the proletariat will naturally make its own communal state (modeled after the Paris Commune of 1871), and then proceed slowly to suppress the bourgeois dissenters. Lenin then says, as Marx did in his younger years, that the state will "wither away", as the institutions begin to "lose their political character" until they are gone. Lenin felt that this change would be gradual and slow so that no power-hungry person(s) could take over, and also so that the population would not allow such a thing.


External links

* [ English translation]
* [ Original text in Russian]

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