Whatever happened to Dear old Lenin?

Whatever happened to Dear old Lenin?

I read a book by Lenin and I made some notes. The emphasis in the quotes are mine.

I've recently re-read Lenin's State and Revolution, arguably his most famous work. Its the one I've seen most referred to by modern Leninists who wish to get new members anyway. I read it and Imperialism years ago when I was still pretty new to left wing politics and they were both over my head.

State and Revolution is quite interesting as both a work of theory and a window into history, it was written in August and September (Old Russian calendar I believe) 1917 and Lenin makes that abundantly clear with numerous references to what was then current events. Its also quite easy to read, its fairly short and the translation on Marxists.org is very good, it reads like an English language original. I did have to look up what panegyric meant but other than that I had no issue understanding the text. The book is largely quotation, mainly from Marx and Engels who are praised heavily, and the German SPD members Kautsky and Bernstein who are criticised constantly. There's not that much of Lenin in the text and most of his words are tied heavily to the quotations or references to the then current political situation.

A fact that's often overlooked about Marx and Engels, even by numerous modern and not so modern Marxists, is that the pair were more than willing to adapt and alter and develop their ideas over time when they encountered new experiences. Their early pre 1848 writings are different from what they published after the Revolutions of 1848. Napoleon the Thirds coup in 1851 also provoked new developments in Marx's thinking. The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte isn't as famous as the Manifesto but a lot of people are familiar at least with the title and the quotation "Once as tragedy, then as farce". And of course most importantly the Paris Commune of 1871 was a very important experience that affected Marx. So much so that months before the uprising at Montmartre, Marx wrote an address to the Parisian workers warning them to remain disciplined and not try to overthrow the government of France. But once the uprising was under way and the Commune was proclaimed he championed it. Indeed he was so impressed with the Communes brief existence that he actually went and made a revision to the Manifesto to include a lesson from the Commune.

Personally I think this the most interesting thing about State and Revolution, the book is a good time line of Marx and Engels attitudes toward the state and explains how it developed in a more radical direction. If he died after writing the Manifesto, you could be forgiven for thinking Marx believed Communism could be achieved simply by taking control of the state by any means, an electoral landslide or a coup would do. Marx did stress the need for a revolutionary mass mobilisations of the workers, but the aim was the conquest of the state so you could be forgiven for wanting to skip a few steps.

That attitude is basically what Lenin was criticising the Opportunists-socialists who were willing to collaborate for state power- for doing. Throughout the work he criticises Kautsky and his fellows for deliberately (in his view) distorting Marx and Engels on the questions of the State and Revolution

Quote:
“We can quite safely leave the solution of the problems of the proletarian dictatorship of the future,” said Kautsky, writing “against” Bernstein. (p.172, German edition)
This is not a polemic against Bernstein, but, in essence, a concession to him, a surrender to opportunism; for at present the opportunists ask nothing better than to “quite safely leave to the future” all fundamental questions of the tasks of the proletarian revolution.

Quote:
From 1852 to 1891, or for 40 years, Marx and Engels taught the proletariat that it must smash the state machine. Yet, in 1899, Kautsky, confronted with the complete betrayal of Marxism by the opportunists on this point, fraudulently substituted for the question whether it is necessary to smash this machine the question for the concrete forms in which it is to be smashed, and then sough refuge behind the “indisputable” (and barren) philistine truth that concrete forms cannot be known in advance!!
This passage is from the final section but the tone and manner of argument is consistent from the first page. Kautsky is being dishonest, his dishonesty seems to be motivated by political expediency etc.

The books strengths are its criticisms of Kautsky and the way it outlines Marx and Engels, it even reproduces some rare letters of Engels not easily found otherwise. If you wish to see Marx and Engels views on the state in total State and Revolution is the easiest way of doing that.

However there are some interesting weaknesses in the book. Mainly it doesn't really explain the relationship between the State and the Revolution. Oh it talks about the two from cover to cover but its mostly reference, neither Lenin, nor Marx or Engels explain the necessary link. They all talk about how important it is to smash the bourgeois state machine (its parliaments, prisons, standing armies, police and bureaucracy) and replace it with a new one, the replacement is a bit vaguer but it involves the people armed and mandated and recallable delegates handling administration work without privileges beyond workmen's wages. And a system like the Paris Commune, but a bit different, like either a union of communes or the commune model on a smaller scale, depending on the quotation. And that this will eventually lead to the withering away of the rest of the state and complete the revolution with its abolishment.

But at no point do any of the three make the case why the state is necessary at all in this process. Lenin constantly criticises the Anarchists in the book for not realising why the state in its proletarian form is absolutely necessary for its completion for example

Quote:
We have now seen how, in their controversy with the anarchists, marx and Engels with the utmost thoroughness explained their views on the relation of revolution to the state. In 1891, in his foreword to Marx’ s Critique of the Gotha Programme, Engels wrote that “we”—that is, Engels and Marx—"were at that time, hardly two years after the Hague Congress of the [First] International, engaged in the most violent struggle against Bakunin and his anarchists."

Quote:
The anarchists had tried to claim the Paris Commune as their “own”, so to say, as a collaboration of their doctrine; and they completely misunderstood its lessons and Marx’ s analysis of these lessons. Anarchism has given nothing even approximating true answers to the concrete political questions: Must the old state machine be smashed? And what should be put in its place?

Quote:
It is safe to say that of this argument of Engels', which is so remarkably rich in ideas, only one point has become an integral part of socialist thought among modern socialist parties, namely, that according to Marx that state “withers away” — as distinct from the anarchist doctrine of the “abolition” of the state.

Quote:
It was solely against this kind of “abolition” of the state that Marx fought in refuting the anarchists! He did not at all oppose the view that the state would disappear when classes disappeared, or that it would be abolished when classes were abolished. What he did oppose was the proposition that the workers should renounce the use of arms, organized violence, that is, the state, which is to serve to "crush the resistance of the bourgeoisie".

These quotations are from all over the book and are only a couple of the many similar (actually identical in intent) criticisms. I thought about laying them out chronologically, but there really isn't any point while Marx and Engels develop throughout book, the attacks on anarchism don't really change.

Notice how they don't actually explain why there view is the correct one? Well we do get a slight substantiation in the last one about Marx commenting on disarmament. Here's the quotation Lenin was referring to in that last extract.

Quote:
This controversy took place in 1873. Marx and Engels contributed articles against the Proudhonists, “autonomists” or "anti- authoritarians", to an Italian socialist annual, and it was not until 1913 that these articles appeared in German in Neue Zeit.

Quote:
"If the political struggle of the working class assumes revolutionary form," wrote Marx, ridiculing the anarchists for their repudiation of politics, "and if the workers set up their revolutionary dictatorship in place of the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, they commit the terrible crime of violating principles, for in order to satisfy their wretched, vulgar everyday needs and to crush the resistance of the bourgeoisie, they give the state a revolutionary and transient form, instead of laying down their arms and abolishing the state."

(Neue Zeit Vol.XXXII, 1, 1913-14, p.40)

Now Marx was specifically arguing with the followers of Proudhon (Mutualists) here, Bakunin the other major Anarchist contemporary of Marx whom he also hated, could not possibly be accused of pacifism. If anything Bakunins flaw was the opposite a bit to quick to emphasis violent insurrection. But even limiting the criticism to Proudhon and the Mutualists there are still some issues here. Firstly the Mutualists did take part in the fighting of Paris Commune, Proudhon himself while he was personally not a supporter of the use of force ideally, and never fought himself as far as I know[1], he did still go to the barricades in Paris 1848 and met with the revolutionaries there and he did support the revolutions throughout the continent, so even on this limited grounds its simply a false accusation.

In addition there's the equivalence of armed force and the state which is simply bizarre. By this point in time Marx was firmly wedded to the idea that for a revolution to be successful it must smash the old state machine including its repressive forces, the police and army, and that special armed bodies of men would be needed to carry this out. But if that happens, then the state has been broken down and you already have a means of organised violence already mobilised and bloodied, so why is a new state necessary then? The bourgeoisie have already lost their shield and the workers are already armed. In order to fulfil Marx's vision they would have to achieve quite a few of the preconditions of Anarchism and then step back from that.

But the weakness of the criticism of the anarchists is even shallower at times, here's a quotation from Lenin that may sound familiar to a syndicalist if reworded a bit

Quote:
We are not utopians, we do not “dream” of dispensing at once with all administration, with all subordination. These anarchist dreams, based upon incomprehension of the tasks of the proletarian dictatorship, are totally alien to Marxism, and, as a matter of fact, serve only to postpone the socialist revolution until people are different. No, we want the socialist revolution with people as they are now, with people who cannot dispense with subordination, control, and "foremen and accountants".

The subordination, however, must be to the armed vanguard of all the exploited and working people, i.e., to the proletariat. A beginning can and must be made at once, overnight, to replace the specific “bossing” of state officials by the simple functions of "foremen and accountants", functions which are already fully within the ability of the average town dweller and can well be performed for "workmen's wages".

He gets another dig in at the Anarchists but after that he starts talking about something that seems very close to workers self organisation. The reference to Foremen is a bit odd but since he's lumped them in with accountants it seems more like a reference to work team leaders then say the Boss's toady. And he says that the workers can and should start taking on economic administrative tasks, so if they can do this immediately and under a hypothetical socialist revolution the majority of the workers are already mobilised into special armed bodies and mandated delegations, why is the factory and workshop movement lagging behind? And if it isn't lagging behind the others than again the state which Lenin says is just an instrument for one class to oppress another, becomes even more redundant.

If the bourgeoisie have lost the state machine, the people are armed and willing to fight, and the economy is quickly being taking over by the workforce, why do you need a rump state? What precisely can it do that the class conscious and mobilised working masses who keep in mind have already overcome the main physical threats to the revolution can't?

This question is just not answered in the text, and considering the subject, its the most important one to be addressed. Lenin himself criticised Kautsky for leaving important questions unanswered in his texts so why shouldn't the same apply here?

There was going to be a seventh chapter, but according to the notes that would be about the 1905 and 1917 revolutions so I doubt there would be an answer there.

I decided to read this again because it was recommended to me by several self described Leninists, but I honestly don't think they've read it recently either because it doesn't say what they seem to think it does. One actually went so far as to claim that Lenin wasn't a statist because he wrote this book. I'll be honest this book actually makes me think the Anarchist approach to the State and Revolution is more credible not less, and I've come to that conclusion largely agreeing with the text.

I actually enjoyed reading State and Revolution,it was written to attack the pro war Provisional Government and the Pro War German Social Democrats, so Lenins main targets are deserving of the venom and he is correct that the opportunists, Kautsky, Bernstein and Plekhanov did distort what Marx and Engels said on this issue.

But mainly I was impressed because I saw Marx, Engels and Lenins ideas develop after each section, and as they got more radical and more nuanced they seemed to get much closer to Anarchism. The specific hypotheticals of the new revolutionary society they came up with probably wouldn't be welcome in an Anarchist paper, but at there most developed the differences largely boil down to terminology (like Engels arguing that his proposed Commune system isn't really federal but a Union) and pacing issues. Its pretty weak criticism when you strip out the insults and mischaracterisations.

I can see why other Bolsheviks feared Lenin had succumbed to Anarchist deviationism, of course he didn't but it is amusing that even a number of Leninists think Lenin was at his best when at he was at his most Anarchistic.

1: I'm not an expert on Proudhons ideas or his life so its possible I'm wrong her, but if so I think this would make the criticism even weaker.

Posted By

Reddebrek
Jun 24 2017 05:36

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Dyjbas
Jun 27 2017 13:12

You've slightly missed the point. As you say, Lenin defines the state simply as an "instrument for one class to oppress another", a "special coercive force". If during, as well as in the immediate aftermath of a revolution, the working class has to suppress the capitalist class, it follows then that to achieve this it needs its own "instrument for one class to oppress another", i.e. its own state.

The nature of this state however will be different, as Lenin goes on to say: "the exploiters are unable to suppress the people without a highly complex machine for performing this task", but the working class "can suppress the exploiters even with a very simple 'machine', almost without a 'machine', without a special apparatus, by the simple organization of the armed people (such as the Soviets of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies)".

In other words, for as long as the suppression of the capitalist class is necessary, workers' councils take the form of, in Lenin's words, a semi-state. Once classes have been abolished, this oppressive state function becomes redundant because there is no longer a class to suppress - so it withers away. "The government of persons is replaced by the administration of things" (Engels).

Now if you use a different definition of the state than Lenin does, this can become needlessly confusing. But that aside, the general problem is how to stop this proletarian semi-state from degenerating into a capitalist state (like it did in Russia). This is a universal problem that both anarchists and Marxists need to deal with, whatever definitions they use (just to illustrate the point: in revolutionary Spain, the workers' and peasants' militias and collectives carried out a very similar semi-state function).

Reddebrek
Jun 27 2017 15:48

I haven't missed the point, I don't agree with it. If you define a state solely as an instrument of class suppression that's all well and good, but then it renders Marx, Engels and Lenin's criticism of the anarchists completely worthless, as its just a rift over semantics.They don't explain why the anarchists preferred option is so inferior, the closest we get is that pop at Proudhonists for being pacifist, which Marx wrote, two years after a lot of them fought and died in a bloody insurrection. Indeed under that definition it makes no sense to accuse anarchists of wanting to abolish the state because they would be deemed statists like you've just done.

And I don't believe that's entirely accurate anyway, Lenin wasn't just calling for the suppression of the capitalists. He was calling for their suppression in a specific way. He clearly supports a version of the Commune on a greater scale in State and Revolution, with its combined executive/legislative body with a centralisation of power throughout the territory (though he muddles it a bit by quoting Engels insistence that each Commune would be accountable to itself). But he never demonstrates why its necessary that the revolution take this form. He just says it is and ridicules several alternatives.

And given the description of the overthrow of the capitalist state he outlines this is a curious oversight, if the proletariat are already armed and class conscious and have already smashed the state machine and are already taking control of the economy, all things Lenin claims will happen, then what exactly is left for this Commune to do?

They, and you all say the state withers away when it becomes unnecessary, but they don't demonstrate why it is necessary at all or how and why it will go away once its point of alleged utility has passed.

Dyjbas
Jun 27 2017 21:22

What exactly do you disagree with? With Lenin's definition of the state? How would you define it?

I have not deemed anarchists "statists". And what I'm trying to say here is that this is not a question of whether the state is "necessary" or not. It's not that Lenin "wants" the state to exist post-revolution, while anarchists don't. The point is that class society will not dissapear overnight, and as long as classes exist, so will state power. You can't wish it out of existence.

For Lenin it's not a question of semantics: "The anarchist idea of abolition of the state is muddled and non-revolutionary--that is how Engels put it. It is precisely the revolution in its rise and development, with its specific tasks in relation to violence, authority, power, the state, that the anarchists refuse to see."

This doesn't apply to all anarchists of course, many have learned lessons from the past or never agreed with the view that the state could be abolished overnight in the first place. But think for example of the CNT which at a crucial point in 1937 declared that:

"The government in this hour, as the regulating instrument of the organisms of the State, has ceased to be an oppressive force against the working class, just as the State no longer represents the organism which divides society into classes. And both will tend even less to oppress the people as a result of the intervention of the CNT [in the government]."

Despite not being pacifists by any means, in effect they "laid down their arms". Such ideas, that a state can cease to be an oppressive force, or that a state can be abolished while class society still exists, are examples of the muddled understanding which Lenin talks about. It is the result of not recognising the state for what it is - a relationship between classes, which can only dissapear with the abolition of classes.

As a side note, this is not to excuse Lenin, who himself did not completely break with social-democracy (e.g. foundation of Sovnarkom, the idea that the party can take power on behalf of the class - which, among other factors, contributed to the aforementioned degeneration of the proletarian "semi-state" into a capitalist state).

zugzwang
Jun 27 2017 22:03
Dyjbas wrote:
But that aside, the general problem is how to stop this proletarian semi-state from degenerating into a capitalist state (like it did in Russia). This is a universal problem that both anarchists and Marxists need to deal with, whatever definitions they use (just to illustrate the point: in revolutionary Spain, the workers' and peasants' militias and collectives carried out a very similar semi-state function).

Sorry, but what do anarchists need to concern themselves with the State, besides its destruction? The anarchists, Bolsheviks and rest of revolutionary Russia achieved that with the provisional government, before Lenin and the Bolsheviks successfully captured political power and began undermining the workers' organizations that had emerged, which he had initially supported, and centralizing everything with the 'proletarian State', along with imprisoning all the political dissidents and shutting down newspapers, actions which would eventually culminate in the Kronstadt uprising and calls for a third revolution, etc. The fundamental reason anarchists are opposed to the State is because of its hierarchical nature and exclusion of others from having a say. The anarchists already have a non-State answer in the working class' own horizontal organizations. The times anarchists have collaborated with the State as in Spain and revolutionary Russia were done so reluctantly - in the latter's case, for example, to stave off the Whites, so waging a war against the Bolshevik regime and counterrevolutionaries wouldn't be ideal.

Battlescarred
Jun 27 2017 21:47

Semi-state?
"Semi-repressed" "semi-Cheka" ,, "semi-prisons" "semi concentation camps" etc.
The whole idea of the "semi-state" is not "semi" but complete bollox

Dyjbas
Jun 27 2017 22:40

Again, no one's arguing here that anarchists should be pro-state, quite the contrary.

In the context of the text we're discussing, the term semi-state is used to signify that a) "the working class cannot simply lay hold of the ready-made state machinery and wield it for its own purposes", and b) as long as classes still exist, the revolutionry organs of the working class (the commune, the workers' councils) will nevertheless carry out a repressive function against the ruling class.

Also, let's not forget that the Spanish anarchists had their own concentration camps set up by Garcia Oliver, while the Ukrainian anarchists had their own Cheka under Lev Zadov. Would you deny the fact that these were instruments for one class to oppress another, i.e. semi-state organs? And one could make some sarcastic remarks about these too...

Reddebrek
Jun 28 2017 05:06
Dyjbas wrote:
What exactly do you disagree with? With Lenin's definition of the state? How would you define it?

Read the blog if you want to know my disagreements, you apparently understood me enough in your first comment so I don't know why your pleading ignorance now.

In the comment your responding to I explicitly used Lenins definition of the state. I used it to demonstrate how the only real difference made is that some of Lenin and Marx and Engels arguments come of even worse.

As for anarchists being statists, I'm sorry but if they aren't statists then I must ask what definition of the state are you using? I though you were using Marx's "Instrument of class domination" that would make anarchists statist under that definition, because suppression of capitalism is a pretty big precondition for anarchist revolution. You can't have it both ways, either their statists under this definition or that simply isn't the definition you believe in.

And it honestly sounds like you don't believe in this definition of the state because you bring up Catalonia. You cite a declaration from 1937, but that wasn't when the revolution started, by that point the capitalists in areas under the control of the Anarchists were effectively suppressed, while that became less and less the case the more they collaborated with the Republic. So from the definition of the state as a tool of class domination, 1936 Catalonia when the CNT/FAI ignored the Generalitat of Catalonia they were a revolutionary state, and became less of a state the more they collaborated with the republic since neither class was effectively suppressed until 39 when Franco restored the capitalist class to power.

You can use what definition of the state you like, but

Quote:
Despite not being pacifists by any means, in effect they "laid down their arms". Such ideas, that a state can cease to be an oppressive force, or that a state can be abolished while class society still exists, are examples of the muddled understanding which Lenin talks about.

Again written in 1873, when exactly did these mutualists "lay down their arms" oh that's right two years previously after the bloody week and the death of the commune. This doesn't change anything the argument is still proven false by actual experience. Marx said the Commune was a state therefore the Mutualists role in the Commune cannot be criticised on these grounds. At best this is him just reiterated the old arguments without taking into account the "Lesson of the Commune" at worst he's deliberately lying to kick in a rival.

Oh and please stop quoting at me if you aren't going to bother to explain what the quotes prove. Saying the Anarchists are X,Y,Z because Lenin, Engels or even Marx said so isn't an argument. Lenin took the time to explain why the Opportunists were wrong so I don't see why the same standards shouldn't apply.

Dyjbas
Jun 28 2017 06:52

This is not really an anarchists vs. Marxists thing. Rather, by taking into consideration Lenin's distinction between a bourgeois state (Provisional Government, Republican Spain) and a proletarian semi-state (Soviet Russia, Revolutionary Catalonia), we can tease out some commonality of experiences. The "muddled understanding" applies to those anarchists who did not recognise the Republican State for what it was, and thought state power was no longer a problem.

I know that you say that once the working class is in power in a given territory, that's no longer a state. But then you have to explain how prisons, forced labour and intelligence services (all of which existed in anarchist Spain and Ukraine) are not state functions.

And I don't think the term statists tells us anything here: anarchism and Marxism are the few tendencies which are anti-state, the fact that you can't abolish the state (i.e. class society) overnight doesn't change this.

Reddebrek
Jun 28 2017 08:28
Quote:
This is not really an anarchists vs. Marxists thing. Rather, by taking into consideration Lenin's distinction between a bourgeois state (Provisional Government, Republican Spain) and a proletarian semi-state (Soviet Russia, Revolutionary Catalonia), we can tease out some commonality of experiences. The "muddled understanding" applies to those anarchists who did not recognise the Republican State for what it was, and though state power was no longer a problem.

So, your saying that Engels assertion that the anarchists wanting to abolish the state is a product of muddled thinking, and this is proven by the time decades into the future when a group of anarchists collaborated with a government... Somehow I doubt your interpretation of Engels here is correct.

Quote:
I know that you say that once the working class is in power in a given territory, that's no longer a state. But then you have to explain how prisons, forced labour and intelligence services (all of which existed in anarchist Spain and Ukraine) are not state functions.

No that's not what I've said, that's just what you want me to have said because then your cheap gotcha criticisms would have some relevance. I'm going to repeat myself one last time,

using the State and Revolution as a guide and accepting the social revolution will occur roughly as Lenin describes and accepting the definition of the state Lenin puts forward (apparently you don't given your comments here) which I have done, then the books criticism of the Anarchists is weak and dishonest with the charge that they want to abolish the state as by the accepted definition the state would still exist in a social revolution lead by the Anarchists, the only difference would be the form of this revolutionary state.

I've re-read your first comment and I don't believe you've read State and Revolution recently, it doesn't speak of this "semi-state" in a general abstract way it becomes quite clear that Lenin has a specific model in mind and is advocating for that. And its based largely on Marx and Engels model.

But at no point does Lenin make the case for why his preferred revolutionary state is the better one to be pursued. And the outline Lenin gives of his preferred model leaves open very significant question as to what the role between the state or rather that hypothetical state, and the revolution, which is a pretty big flaw in a book that was supposed and is often claimed to answer that question conclusively.

I've asked you this question directly and you haven't answered it, all you do is mischaracterise my stance and try to `checkmate` me.

Dyjbas
Jun 28 2017 10:31

Ok, I think we're talking past each other. I'll try to explain.

In regards to the quotes. When Marx talked about the anarchists, he had in mind the mutualists who were opposed to the working class replacing "the dictatorship of the bourgeois class with their own revolutionary dictatorship". Marx doesn't call them pacifists, he argues the mutualists would rather "lay down their arms" than accept a revolutionary dictatorship of the working class.

Here you can make an analogy with the CNT (which is what I tried to do). When the Friends of Durruti agitated for the dictatorship of the proletariat (except they called it a revolutionary junta instead), the CNT accused them of being Marxists who want to set up their own state. Not unlike the mutualists, by then it was clear the CNT would rather lay down their arms in front of the capitalist state, than accept a revolutionary dictatorship of the class. This is the relevance of the muddled understanding of the state - many anarchists oppose the dictatorship of the proletariat when it is the only instrument which can smash the capitalist state.

You're right that the form which the dictatorship of the proletariat (i.e. the semi-state) takes is important - it has to meet the needs of the class, and be able to put the communist principle into practice. In the text Lenin calls it "a democratic republic after the type of the Commune, or a republic of Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies". You keep asking "why his preferred revolutionary state is the better one to be pursued". I would answer: what else is there? So far these are the historically discovered forms by the class (which doesn't mean there won't be new ones).

In your article you also ask the question "why do you need a rump state?". If by rump state you mean the dictatorship of the proletariat, the semi-state, then that's what I tried to answer. The repressive function of workers' power can only fully disappear with the abolition of classes on an international scale. This is what both the anarchist and Marxist experience shows.

Reddebrek
Jun 28 2017 13:41
Dyjbas wrote:

In regards to the quotes. When Marx talked about the anarchists, he had in mind the mutualists who were opposed to the working class replacing "the dictatorship of the bourgeois class with their own revolutionary dictatorship". Marx doesn't call them pacifists, he argues the mutualists would rather "lay down their arms" than accept a revolutionary dictatorship of the working class.

Already answered multiple times, they took part in the Paris Commune which Marx called an example of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat. So Marx is either wrong about the Paris Commune or he is wrong about the Mutualists. Feel free to pick whichever one you like, but you can't have both.

I'm not disputing what Marx said, I'm showing why it doesn't apply. And your not actually disputing this, all your doing is being picky with my words, you haven't shown why Marx is actually correct even after the lesson of the Commune, your just repeating Marx back to me as if that proves anything in and of itself.

I am not as dumb as you clearly think I am, so if your only answer is to reword something again knock it off, that isn't the issue and it isn't going to work.

Quote:
Here you can make an analogy with the CNT (which is what I tried to do). When the Friends of Durruti agitated for the dictatorship of the proletariat (except they called it a revolutionary junta instead), the CNT accused them of being Marxists who want to set up their own state. Not unlike the mutualists, by then it was clear the CNT would rather lay down their arms in front of the capitalist state, than accept a revolutionary dictatorship of the class. This is the relevance of the muddled understanding of the state - many anarchists oppose the dictatorship of the proletariat when it is the only instrument which can smash the capitalist state.

I'm sorry but that is complete nonsense, Marx, Engels and Lenin are not accusing the Anarchists of hypocrisy which is what you are doing here. They quite clearly believed the anarchists were genuine in their desires to abolish the state, and pose a risk of pulling it off. So your analogy doesn't apply at all. It was the Opportunist Socialists who were accused of hypocrisy for their talk of withering away the state whilst working for a capitalist one. If the big three meant the same thing while criticising both why were their arguments different?

On the contrary the one positive thing Lenin has to say for the Anarchists is that there opposition to the state is so extreme that he couldn't do what you've just outlined. So, again I don't believe your interpretation is correct at all, it looks to me that your just trying to retroactively justify a weak criticism rather than acknowledge it in its context.

So lets give some context
At the end of the book Lenin cites Engels 1891 preface to Gotha and Engels

Quote:
“we”—that is, Engels and Marx—"were at that time, hardly two years after the Hague Congress of the [First] International,[1] engaged in the most violent struggle against Bakunin and his anarchists."
The anarchists had tried to claim the Paris Commune as their “own”, so to say, as a collaboration of their doctrine; and they completely misunderstood its lessons and Marx’ s analysis of these lessons.

Lenin states that the final feud between Marx and Engels and the Anarchists was motivated over the legacy of the Commune. And my reading on the subject suggests while simplistic that has a lot of truth to it. So unless you're saying the Commune was an example of laying down your arms before a capitalist state I don't see how could possibly say Engels was thinking about something akin to the CNT in 37 when he made those comments. Well I can't see how you could say them in good faith, anyway.

Quote:
You're right that the form which the dictatorship of the proletariat (i.e. the semi-state) takes is important - it has to meet the needs of the class, and be able to put the communist principle into practice. In the text Lenin calls it "a democratic republic after the type of the Commune, or a republic of Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies". You keep asking "why his preferred revolutionary state is the better one to be pursued". I would answer: what else is there? So far these are the historically discovered forms by the class (which doesn't mean there won't be new ones).

Let me get this straight, you read a blog by someone saying they find the argument in a book weak because it just states things as if its obvious and true, without explanation and substantiation, and thought doing more of the same would work?

So what exactly was the point of your comments? What exactly did you hope to achieve? You've just admitted that my criticisms still stand (thank you I guess). And to think you started this whole thing off say I had missed the point.

Quote:
In your article you also ask the question "why do you need a rump state?". If by rump state you mean the dictatorship of the proletariat, the semi-state, then that's what I tried to answer. The repressive function of workers' power can only fully disappear with the abolition of classes on an international scale. This is what both the anarchist and Marxist experience shows.

Again this is not an answer, your just stating something as if its a given. This is not the product of analysis, this is product of an article of faith. I'm not interested in your sermons I want answers (not replies, answers) to my questions could you start doing this please and stop with the recitations.

Dyjbas
Jun 28 2017 15:23

Why are you being so hostile? Why the bitter tone?

This is what Engels says about the Paris Commune: "the anti-authoritarians demand that the political state be abolished at one stroke, even before the social conditions that gave birth to it have been destroyed. They demand that the first act of the social revolution shall be the abolition of authority. [...] Would the Paris Commune have lasted a single day if it had not made use of this authority of the armed people against the bourgeois? Should we not, on the contrary, reproach it for not having used it freely enough?" Lenin, in the footsteps of Marx and Engels, continued to criticize anarchists for renouncing the dictatorship of the proletariat under the pretext of anti-statism.

Now, you say Marx, Engels and Lenin are not accusing the anarchists of hypocrisy - but this is what Engels says on the role of the Blanquists and the Proudhonists in the Paris Commune: "in both cases the irony of history willed – as is usual when doctrinaires come to the helm – that both did the opposite of what the doctrines of their school proscribed." This applies to 1936 as well, because as I've already pointed out there were anarchists who despite their anti-statism joined capitalist governments, and there were other anarchists who despite their anti-statism called for a dictatorship of the proletariat.

Like I said before, in my original comment I've tried to clarify how Lenin understands the semi-state. My aim was not to validate every polemic that Marx, Engels and Lenin had against the anarchists (which it feels like you want me to do). On the other hand, I'm sorry if you feel like I'm not answering your questions. At this point, it might make it easier if you clearly specify the questions you want to me to answer, otherwise we'll just keep talking in circles.

radicalgraffiti
Jun 28 2017 15:35

fighting against capitalist repression has never been against anarchist principles, but you continue to pretend it is

Dyjbas
Jun 28 2017 15:45

What? Where has anyone said that it's "against anarchist principles" to oppose capitalist oppression?

radicalgraffiti
Jun 28 2017 17:06

....

radicalgraffiti
Jun 28 2017 17:06
Dyjbas wrote:
What? Where has anyone said that it's "against anarchist principles" to oppose capitalist oppression?

Quote:
This is what Engels says about the Paris Commune: "the anti-authoritarians demand that the political state be abolished at one stroke, even before the social conditions that gave birth to it have been destroyed. They demand that the first act of the social revolution shall be the abolition of authority. [...] Would the Paris Commune have lasted a single day if it had not made use of this authority of the armed people against the bourgeois? Should we not, on the contrary, reproach it for not having used it freely enough?" Lenin, in the footsteps of Marx and Engels, continued to criticize anarchists for renouncing the dictatorship of the proletariat under the pretext of anti-statism.

Quote:
In regards to the quotes. When Marx talked about the anarchists, he had in mind the mutualists who were opposed to the working class replacing "the dictatorship of the bourgeois class with their own revolutionary dictatorship". Marx doesn't call them pacifists, he argues the mutualists would rather "lay down their arms" than accept a revolutionary dictatorship of the working class.

Here you can make an analogy with the CNT (which is what I tried to do). When the Friends of Durruti agitated for the dictatorship of the proletariat (except they called it a revolutionary junta instead), the CNT accused them of being Marxists who want to set up their own state. Not unlike the mutualists, by then it was clear the CNT would rather lay down their arms in front of the capitalist state, than accept a revolutionary dictatorship of the class. This is the relevance of the muddled understanding of the state - many anarchists oppose the dictatorship of the proletariat when it is the only instrument which can smash the capitalist state.

Dyjbas
Jun 28 2017 17:48

During the Paris Commune, anarchists were among those armed people. But it's no secret that Proudhon and the mutualists (as well as Bakunin and many anarchists after him) ideologically opposed the dictatorship of the proletariat - despite this, some of these very mutualists then found themselves bringing the first dictatorship of the proletariat into life during the Paris Commune - as Engels says, that's the irony of history.

So no one said that it's "against anarchist principles" to oppose capitalist oppression. Just that many anarchists oppose the concept of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

Battlescarred
Jun 28 2017 18:36

But the proof o the the pudding is in the practice. The "semi-state" you talk about ( and note, so do some Trotskysists these days!) actually proved to be very much not a semi- but a fully fledged state, with a take over of the bureaucracy, judiciary, police, etc and the founding of the Cheka . It was used as an ofensive weapon by the Bolsheviks against all socialist and revolutionary currents and against workers and peasants in a most brutal way.

radicalgraffiti
Jun 28 2017 18:39
Dyjbas wrote:
During the Paris Commune, anarchists were among those armed people. But it's no secret that Proudhon and the mutualists (as well as Bakunin and many anarchists after him) ideologically opposed the dictatorship of the proletariat - despite this, some of these very mutualists then found themselves bringing the first dictatorship of the proletariat into life during the Paris Commune - as Engels says, that's the irony of history.

So no one said that it's "against anarchist principles" to oppose capitalist oppression. Just that many anarchists oppose the concept of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

"the dictatorship of the proletariat" means different things depending on what argument is being made.
anarchist oppose trying to seize control of the state to implement the revolution, and they support the working class organising independently to implement and defend the revolution

Marxists say that defended the revolution is a state, and therefore anyone who opposes states opposes defending the revolution

Dyjbas
Jun 28 2017 19:02

And I absolutely agree with that Battlescarred - at the very beginning I wrote: "the general problem is how to stop this proletarian semi-state from degenerating into a capitalist state (like it did in Russia). This is a universal problem that both anarchists and Marxists need to deal with, whatever definitions they use."

Which is why it's useful to look for a commonality of experiences between these two tendencies. Had the revolution in Spain been succesful, workers would have to deal with similar problems as they did in Russia - relative economical backwardness and isolation of the revolutionary outbreak.

Radicalgraffiti, I think your Marxist/anarchist distinction is too simplistic. For one, actual Marxists likewise support the working class organising independently to implement and defend the revolution and stress that the working class "cannot simply lay hold of the ready-made state machinery, and wield it for its own purposes".

radicalgraffiti
Jun 28 2017 19:26
Dyjbas wrote:
And I absolutely agree with that Battlescarred - at the very beginning I wrote: "the general problem is how to stop this proletarian semi-state from degenerating into a capitalist state (like it did in Russia). This is a universal problem that both anarchists and Marxists need to deal with, whatever definitions they use."

Which is why it's useful to look for a commonality of experiences between these two tendencies. Had the revolution in Spain been succesful, workers would have to deal with similar problems as they did in Russia - relative economical backwardness and isolation of the revolutionary outbreak.

Radicalgraffiti, I think your Marxist/anarchist distinction is too simplistic. For one, actual Marxists likewise support the working class organising independently to implement and defend the revolution and stress that the working class "cannot simply lay hold of the ready-made state machinery, and wield it for its own purposes".

you miss the point entirely, let me put it another way.
anarchist oppose the dictatorship of the proletariat. at the same time anarchists support the dictatorship of the proletariat. anarchists oppose the state, and anarchists support the state.

why is this? is it because anarchists are incoherent? is it because there ideas around the state are "muddy"? or is it perhaps because the "dictatorship of the proletariat" and the "dictatorship of the proletariat" are two entirely different things and there is nothing contradictory about supporting one while opposing the other.

putting the same label on two different things does not make them the same

tl;dr marxist definitions of the state are bullshit, which function to obscure not describe

zugzwang
Jun 28 2017 19:51
Dyjbas wrote:
Also, let's not forget that the Spanish anarchists had their own concentration camps set up by Garcia Oliver, while the Ukrainian anarchists had their own Cheka under Lev Zadov. Would you deny the fact that these were instruments for one class to oppress another, i.e. semi-state organs? And one could make some sarcastic remarks about these too...

Dyjbas wrote:
During the Paris Commune, anarchists were among those armed people. But it's no secret that Proudhon and the mutualists (as well as Bakunin and many anarchists after him) ideologically opposed the dictatorship of the proletariat - despite this, some of these very mutualists then found themselves bringing the first dictatorship of the proletariat into life during the Paris Commune - as Engels says, that's the irony of history.

So no one said that it's "against anarchist principles" to oppose capitalist oppression. Just that many anarchists oppose the concept of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

Please don't tell me you're trying to portray Bakunin or anarchists as pacifists - it's not a thing to my knowledge that anarchists are against suppressing counterrevolutionaries - they just disagree with using the State as a means of doing that. There was Makhno's (I'm aware there were plenty of problems with Makhno) army in the Ukraine, e.g., collaborating with the Red Army at times, fighting off all the nationalists and counterrevolutionaries. And the anarchists of revolutionary Russia were rightly opposed to the 'dictatorship of the proletariat' because in practice what it really meant was the dictatorship of the party.

Dyjbas
Jun 28 2017 20:01

If you believe the Marxist definition of the state to be bullshit, then provide a different and better one. I asked for this earlier in the thread, but no one has come forward so far.

At the moment though, I'm reading stuff like this:

radicalgraffiti wrote:
anarchist oppose the dictatorship of the proletariat. at the same time anarchists support the dictatorship of the proletariat. anarchists oppose the state, and anarchists support the state.

And it sounds very much like a muddy understanding!

Zugzwang, I don't know why you're bringing the whole pacifism thing into this again. It's not about pacifism. And yes, previously in the thread it's been mentioned that revolutionary Spain and Ukraine both showcased elements of a dictatorship of the proletariat (including semi-state functions: prisons, forced labour and intelligence services). That's despite the fact that ideologically the anarchists disagreed with using the state - it's further evidence that, as Lenin argues, it's not possible to suppress the capitalist class without adapting at least some oppressive state functions.

If I can ask for one thing, please read my comments with a bit more attention, otherwise you force me to repeat stuff that's already been said.

radicalgraffiti
Jun 28 2017 20:05

if you dont think these are all the same you have a muddy understanding, now spread the bleach on your bread

Noa Rodman
Jun 28 2017 20:26

re: Reddebrek's question: "The bourgeoisie have already lost their shield and the workers are already armed." "and [if] the economy is quickly being taking over by the workforce, why do you need a rump state?"

The problem is that you can't take the one victory over the bourgeoisie and reactionaries for granted – the proletariat's victory can be overturned again:

Lenin (in Renegade Kautsky) wrote:
Kautsky, with the learned air of a most learned armchair fool, or with the innocent air of a ten-year-old schoolgirl, asks: Why do we need a dictatorship when we have a majority? And Marx and Engels explain:
—to break down the resistance of the bourgeoisie;
—to inspire the reactionaries with fear;
—to maintain the authority of the armed people against the bourgeoisie;
—that the proletariat may forcibly hold down its adversaries.

It's not like Proletariat-Bourgeoisie: 1:0, game over, no more rematch. On the contrary, the dictatorship of the proletariat sets only the best stage wherein the real class struggle can be fought out. That is, as Dyjbas wrote, the state "can only fully disappear with the abolition of classes".

Workers can take over the factories, but that does not mean capitalism is instantly overcome yet (btw, setting up factory committees is even legal under bourgeois law). It takes time to finish the communization process ("build communism"), dissolve the remaining (petit)-bourgeoisie class, etc.

It was renegade Kautsky's position that councils can serve only as insurrectionist instruments, not as state organs. It looks perhaps like an anarchist position, no?

But I think the question Reddebrek is really asking what concretely this whole process will look like, ie what will the councils actually do in practice, and so on. So he just wants Marxists to be a bit less abstract.

zugzwang
Jun 28 2017 20:34
Dyjbas wrote:
If you believe the Marxist definition of the state to be bullshit, then provide a different and better one. I asked for this earlier in the thread, but no one has come forward so far.

At the moment though, I'm reading stuff like this:

radicalgraffiti wrote:
anarchist oppose the dictatorship of the proletariat. at the same time anarchists support the dictatorship of the proletariat. anarchists oppose the state, and anarchists support the state.

And it sounds very much like a muddy understanding!

Zugzwang, I don't know why you're bringing the whole pacifism thing into this again. It's not about pacifism. And yes, previously in the thread it's been mentioned that revolutionary Spain and Ukraine both showcased elements of a dictatorship of the proletariat (including semi-state functions: prisons, forced labour and intelligence services). That's despite the fact that ideologically the anarchists disagreed with using the state - it's further evidence that, as Lenin argues, it's not possible to suppress the capitalist class without adapting at least some oppressive state functions.

If I can ask for one thing, please read my comments with a bit more attention, otherwise you force me to repeat stuff that's already been said.

Where does the State enter into this equation? This has nothing to do with the State. How is fighting against counterrevolutionaries exercising a 'State function'? Granted the authority Makhno wielded was less than ideal, the whole conscription thing was problematic as well, but he encouraged the peasants to organize into libertarian communes while fighting off all the counterrevolutionaries, meanwhile the Bolsheviks were busy pursuing their plans of centralization and suppression of all dissident voices (even branding Makhno a counterrevolutionary). I'd rather have a flawed Makhno trying to establish an anarchist utopia than the Bolsheviks' 'dictatorship of the proletariat' which really meant, as I said, the dictatorship of them over the working class.

Noa Rodman
Jun 28 2017 21:03

examples of how the bourgeoisie goes down but still dragging the proletariat with it:

dead Mr. Burns firing Homer:

Gandalf vs. Balrog:

Pennoid
Jun 29 2017 11:40

The question of state form is very important. But Anarchists make it a problem of choice when it isn't, it's a problem of the technical and social division of labor. This is the merit in the Marxist critique of the state (both through human history and in capitalism in particular).

The attempt is to find some small conceptual error in 'important works' by Lenin or Marx, or to read in subterfuge, rather than analyze the social and political problems which undermined their repeated attempts to push forward revolutionary movements and figure out how to overcome them toward the abolition of the state. E.g., Lenin was politicking and never 'wanted to' abolish the state (as if he could!) or was genuine, but had the wrong ideas, and was therefore blinded by them and led back to 'rehabilitating' statisation.

The state is simply a tool for class rule. In capitalism, the state takes a particular form, as a result of what's necessary for the bourgeoisie to rule in given conditions, here or there, and as a result of the greater or worse degree of freedom won by workers through class struggle.

The far more concrete and difficult question is; how do you feed people in civil war and crisis, when the basis for their being fed was absolutist -feudalism-cum-capitalism? How do you carry on the production necessary to house and care for the population, secure arms and munitions, etc. when the reference point for every person was a *different* set of relations, based on exchange?

This is to say nothing of the contending *social class* forces which cut *against* eachother.

Reddebrek
Jun 29 2017 12:44
Noa Rodman wrote:
re: Reddebrek's question: "The bourgeoisie have already lost their shield and the workers are already armed." "and [if] the economy is quickly being taking over by the workforce, why do you need a rump state?"

The problem is that you can't take the one victory over the bourgeoisie and reactionaries for granted – the proletariat's victory can be overturned again:

Well not in the outline of social revolution put forward here. The state machine has been broken up, the people are armed and class concious and the economy is being taken over by the workers. What base remains for these reactionary forces to wield in this scenario? They don't have the army and police or prisons, they are numerically inferior in the extreme, and they've lost control of the means of production and with it the economic tools of domination, and the working population is conscious of the tasks of revolution so false conciousness (without the powerful institutions that underpin it in capitalist society even) can't take hold again.

So how is this counter revolutionary threat to manifest in this scenario? And in what way is this threat minimised by the organisation of the revolution into a centralised national union of communes?

If these armed and class concious workers are capable of defeating the original capitalist states with decades, even centuries of reinforcement and entrenchment, why are they suddenly incapable of defeating a nascent capitalist state with none of those advantages without the help of this new organisation?

Noa Rodman
Jun 29 2017 15:57

To the last point: With all due respect to armed uprising (even Kautsky had to appreciate its possibility for success after 1905) and its art, but the discipline of the Russian army was as much, if not more, falling apart due to the war than the direct action of the MRCs. And then the army remnants (and mobilization of anti-soviet population) under various generals still managed to hold large parts of Russia for a couple of years. In Germany 1919 the Freikorps. In 19th Britain iirc there was a case where the government felt under threat by protests, and since it had no permanent police it simply mobilized one from the population in jiffy. During the Paris commune, the bourgeoisie temporarily withdrew and organised its forces in Versailles. Less drastically, in Egyptian politics protestors managed to burn down the HQs of the secret police, but afaik secret police is doing very well in Egypt today.

As regards an ideal total victory scenario though, basically I think you're just skipping over the whole difficulty right into a future stateless society (and even reformists can agree with such a dreamy ideal);

Quote:
What base remains for these reactionary forces to wield in this scenario? They don't have the army and police or prisons, they are numerically inferior in the extreme,

The bourgeoisie is always numerically inferior. Again, it's not difficult to recruit new armed forces, it is even less to turn e.g. a hotel-building into a prison. In areas which they don't control, they can lock themselves in spots, possibly with captured hostages, and terrorize the neighbourhood. I'd say bourgeois paranoia about what subversive elements are allegedly up to, is a projection of what they themselves do or are willing to do. In fact, the reason the Cheka was set up was to deal with a strike by Petrograd state/bank officials (the inspiration for Ayn Rand's novel?).

Quote:
and they've lost control of the means of production and with it the economic tools of domination

They will still have some of their people in the management of firms, experts who deal with the money side of things. If you keep them in check under the threat of arms (as in that Existential Comics cartoon), obviously you still have of a repressive apparatus.

To keep up hygienic and safety procedures (eg in nuclear industry) and social regulations there's need for control teams, factory inspectors, which can be considered a sort of police (at least Kautsky did so in his polemic with Pannekoek, I know this can be challenged). If there are still rich or petty-bourgeois to tax, obviously that requires an administration to do.