The Structure of the State Contrasted with That of the International

Submitted by GrouchoMarxist on June 21, 2012

When the International has organized a half, a third, or even a tenth of the European proletariat, states will have ceased to exist... For if even one worker out of ten joins the International seriously and with full knowledge of the cause, the rest would come under its pervasive influence, and in the first crisis all would follow the International in working to achieve the emancipation of the proletariat.

Could such a mobilization of the International’s influence over the masses lead to a new system of state domination? No, for the essential difference between the organized action of the International and the action of all states, is that the International is not vested with any official authority or political power whatever. It will always be the natural organization of action, of a greater or lesser number of individuals, inspired and united by the general aim of influencing [by example] the opinion, the will, and the action of the masses. Governments, by contrast, impose themselves upon the masses and force them to obey their decrees, without for the most part taking into consideration their feelings, their needs, and their will. There exists between the power of the State and that of the International the same difference that exists between the official power of the State and the natural activity of a club. The International is not and never will be anything but the organization of the unforced action of individuals upon the masses. The opposite is true of the State and all its institutions: church, university, law courts, bureaucracy, taxation, police, and military ... all corrupt the minds and will of its subjects and demand their passive obedience...

The State is the organized authority, domination, and power of the possessing classes over the masses ... the International wants only their complete freedom, and calls for their revolt. But in order that this rebellion be powerful and capable enough to overthrow the domination of the State and the privileged classes, the International has to organize itself. To attain its objective, it employs only two means, which, if not always legal, are completely legitimate from the standpoint of human rights. These two means are the dissemination of the ideas of the International and the natural influence of its members over the masses.

Whoever contends that such action, being a move to create a new authoritarian power, threatens the freedom of the masses must be a sophist or a fool. All social life is nothing but the incessant mutual interdependence of individuals and of masses. All individuals, even the strongest and the most intelligent, are at every moment of their lives both the producers and the products of the will and action of the masses.

The freedom of each individual is the ever-renewing result of numerous material, intellectual, and moral influences of the surrounding individuals and of the society into which he is born, and in which he grows up and dies. To wish to escape this influence in the name of a transcendental, divine, absolutely self-sufficient freedom is to condemn oneself to non-existence; to forgo the exercise of this freedom upon others is to renounce all social action and all expression of one’s thoughts and sentiments, and to end in nothingness. Such absolute independence and such a freedom, the brainchild of idealists and metaphysicians, is a wild absurdity.

In human society, as in nature, every being lives only by the supreme principle of the most positive intervention in the existence of every other being. The character and extent of this intervention depend upon the nature of the individual. To abolish this mutual intervention would mean death. And when we demand the freedom of the masses, we do not even dream of obliterating any of the natural influences that any individual or group of individuals exercise upon each other. We want only the abolition of artificial, privileged, legal, and official impositions. If the Church and the State were private institutions, we would, no doubt, be against them, but we would not contest their right to exist. We fight them because they are organized to exploit the collective power of the masses by official and violent superimposition. If the International were to became a State we, its most zealous champions, would become its most implacable enemies.

But the point is precisely that the International cannot organize itself into a State. It cannot do so because the International, as its name implies, means the abolition of all frontiers, and there can he no State without frontiers, without sovereignty. The universal State, the dream of the greatest despots in the world, has been proven by history to be unrealizable. The universal State, or the People’s State, of which the German Communists dream, can therefore signify only one thing: the destruction of the State.

The International Workingmen’s Association would be totally devoid of meaning if it did not aim at the abolition of the State. It organizes the masses only to facilitate the destruction of the State. And how does it organize them? Not from the top down, not by constricting the manifold functions of society which reflect the diversity of labor, not by forcing the natural life of the masses into the straitjacket of the State, not by imposing upon them a fictitious unity. On the contrary, it organizes them from the bottom up, beginning with the social life of the masses and their real aspirations, and inducing them to group, harmonize, and balance their forces in accordance with the natural diversity of their occupations and circumstances... . This is the true function of the trade union section.

We have already said that in order to organize the masses and with them solidly to establish the influence of the International, it would be sufficient, strictly speaking, that one out of ten workers should join... . In moments of great political or economic crisis, when the rebellious instincts of the masses boil over, at a time when these herds of human slaves ... rise up at last to throw off their yoke, they find themselves bewildered, powerless because they are completely unorganized. They are in the mood to listen to all worthwhile suggestions; ten, twenty, or thirty well-organized militants, acting together, knowing what they want and how to get it, can easily rally several hundred courageous activists. We saw an example of this during the Paris Commune [1871]. A serious organization coming to life only during the siege, nowhere near as strong as the situation demanded, was, despite these drawbacks, able to constitute a formidable power with a vast resistance potential.

What will happen when the International is better organized, when a great many more sections — above all, agricultural sections — are enrolled in its ranks, when each section triples its membership? What will happen when each and every member knows better than he does now the ultimate objectives and true principles of the International, as well as the means to insure its triumph? The International will have become an invincible power.