The State and Revolution: Study Guide
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The State and Revolution: Study Guide
14th May 2012
I will soon be re-reading Lenin's "State and Revolution." While going through again I will be using a study guide to help me learn each facet of the theory.While going through I would be grateful if some more knowledgeable Leninists could critique each reply of mine and say if it is a correct answer.
The study guide I will be using is listed below.
I will begin reading soon.As I read I will post the study guide's question with my answer.
15th May 2012
Would you guys say these are correct answers?
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Questions for Chapter 1
Q1. According to Engels, the State arises because of “irreconcilable class antagonisms.” The function of the State is to “moderate” these antagonisms. Lenin then adds that conflicts are moderated by enforcing the rule of the oppressor, not by reconciling class interests.
If moderation simply amounts to enforcing class rule, why is it necessary to have an intermediary like the state? Why can’t the ruling class enforce its rule directly? What is the meaning of “moderation” in this context?
The Ruling Class cannot enforce their will directly without the use of a state because of the “irreconcilable” differences it has with the Working class (proletariat). Without a “body of armed men” to enforce their interests the Working Class would naturally be overthrown by a proletarian uprising which seizes the means of production for themselves. In this sense Moderation means oppression.
Q2. Are the only “irreconcilable class antagonisms” in society those between the oppressing class and the oppressed class?
In modern Capitalist society yes, the only irreconcilable class antagonisms are between the oppressing and oppressed classes. However, were one to go back and study history one could see the same base antagonisms between serf and landlord, king and peasant, etc.
Q3. Give examples of state “moderation” in American history.
Moderation examples are abounding in American history. Truly anytime during labor struggles when the state crushes strikes, send in replacement workers, or places pressure on the employing class to fire the striking workers, are prime examples of moderation. To take this further one could say moderation is also the implementation of socially liberal economic measures (such as Welfare) to dispel revolutionary fury.
Q4. How does it follow that because the state arises out of class society, places itself above it, increasingly alienating itself from it (Engels), a violent revolution is necessary and also the destruction of the state apparatus (Lenin)?
A violent revolution is needed precisely because of the oppressing nature of its existence. As noted the proletariat cannot harness bourgeois means of control (I.E the state apparatus) for themselves, so hence, it must be forcefully abolished in conjunction with the suppression of the bourgeoisie as a class. The Working Class, after all, cannot erect their own “fully democratic state” if the old oppressive state is still operational.
Q5. Why does Lenin make “special bodies of armed men, prisons,” etc. distinguishing characteristics of the state? Isn’t it true that in modern society there is an increasing “complexity of social life” and “differentiation of functions” ? Wouldn’t this imply modifications of a “self acting armed population” under socialism? Wouldn’t there be a need for prisons under socialism?
Lenin makes the “special bodies of armed men” a distinguishing characteristic because of the absolute necessity of such an instrument. The modern capitalist state cannot maintain itself without such a mass. While it is true that life has become more complex socially this is only true to a certain degree; superficially it has gained complexity but dialectically it has not: there are still only the oppressed and oppressing classes. As for the need for prisons under socialism such might be needed only as far as counterrevolutionaries are concerned; if one asks is in the vein of “will there still be a need for prisons as operated under the bourgeoisie’s standards” then the answer is an explicit “no.”
Q6. What does Engels mean when he says that under conditions of modern capitalism the public power “threatens to devour the whole of society and even the state”?
Here Engels is referring to the destructive potential of the “rivalry in conquest” of the competing imperialist powers. During times of upheaval, when surplus capital must be destroyed in the typical manner of armed inter-imperialist conflict, the effect on society from these conflicts threatens to destroy all of bourgeois society as well as the so-named bourgeois state.
Q7. If the state generally represents the rule of the “economically dominant class,” then in what sense does it place itself “above society”?
It places itself above society in the sense that the economically dominate class only enforces their own rule. Demands and concessions to the oppressed class are only given superfluous attention when revolutionary thought grips the working masses. Not serving the “citizens” which it has thus far divided into territories it effectively places itself above society as a whole.
Q8. If Bonapartism represents two contending classes balancing each other, does this mean that a Bonapartist state has no class character? If not, how can the class character be determined?
Bonapartism is rooted in class society. In admitting that such a society “balances contending classes” one automatically admits that such a state has a class character; in this case the character is more even yet there are, nonetheless, a ruling class for otherwise “balancing out” would be impossible as the proletariat would rise up and overthrow the bourgeoisie. To answer more directly, however, all’s one must do to define the characteristic of the state is to see who own the means of production.
Q9. Why is a democratic republic with universal suffrage the best method of bourgeois rule? Best from whose point of view?
Universal Suffrage has often been the most desired form of bourgeois rule because it gives the Working Class illusions of changing the system (state and government) through voting. Owing their existence to the use of Armed bodies of men (police, military, etc) the bourgeoisie understand that lulling the population into compliancy through false means of power sharing is an effective tactic at controlling the revolutionary potential. Obviously this is best from bourgeois perspective.
Q10. What is wrong with the conception of a “free people’s state”? Under what circumstances would its use be permissible? How about the conception of a socialist state?
The conception of a “free people’s state” is wrong insofar as it is a complete contradiction to the very meaning of “state.” A state is a “coercive” force which bends classes to its will. Using this definition there is no such thing as freedom under a state no matter how democratic it is. While for a while Engles was willing to advocate use of such a state for agitation purposes this is not to say he validated its existence as a legitimate form of socialism. Taking this further, an actual socialist state is still a coercive force, hence, not free; simply, under a socialist state the proletariat owns the means of production and works towards its final emancipation (I.E communism).
Q11. Define: State, Society, Government, Regime.
State: A body of armed men // Society: Civilization as defined by social living // Government: The administrative body of the state which creates legality for the state’s infrastructure // Regime: An undaunted governmental body lacking any democratic apparatuses.
Q12. Contrast the opportunist, anarchist, and revolutionary attitudes to the state.
Opportunist attitudes towards the state reflect a willingness to work hand-in-hand with the bourgeoisie so as long as it benefits one’s party. Anarchist attitude towards the state seeks to “abolish” is outright while failing to reconcile the class antagonisms beforehand (I.E skip straight to communism without the working class oppressing the bourgeois class). Finally, revolutionary attitude is to violently destroy the bourgeois apparatus, establish a proletarian dictatorship, and then allow this new workers state to wither away (a trait impossible for a bourgeois state to do).
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