07 June 2010

Lenin’s The State and Revolution

Lenin’s The State and Revolution

Short General Introduction

The State and Revolution is a book of Lenin’s that was written in the months in between the February and October Russian Revolutions of 1917.

Interrupted by the Bolshevik Revolution, it was never completed.

The State and Revolution is an uncompromising description of The State and of how it can be revolutionised, written as a rehearsal and critique of the writings of Marx and Engels on the one hand, and those of various reformist, opportunist and anarchist characters on the other hand, finishing with Kautsky.

Kautsky had been the principle renegade at the outbreak of the war that was still going on in 1917, and which did not come to an end until the following year.

The State and Revolution is well worth studying in its entirety of six chapters. In form, it is ideal for the Freirean method of pedagogy through study circles. Each Chapter is of a suitable length for reading and discussion by a group that meets weekly.

The question that Lenin puts unavoidably in front of us is that of the State.

The problem that appears is: whether or to what extent the State can be treated as benign, or developmental? In the SACP we do not repudiate Lenin, yet we still praise state ownership and state “delivery”. How are these things reconciled? If the State is benign, then why would we want it to wither away? If the state is but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie [Marx/Engels, Communist Manifesto], and “an Instrument for the Exploitation of the Oppressed Class” [Lenin, State & Revolution] then how can it at the same time be beneficial?

Lenin realised that the eventual transition to communism had to be secured in the process of the transition to socialism. He realised that there would be a moment of danger when it would be possible that the worker’s state could redevelop the characteristics of the bourgeois state.

This is what happened in the Soviet Union under Stalin, and the eventual consequence was the collapse and break-up of the Soviet Union into a scattering of bourgeois states. The revolution was not permanent, after all. The undead bourgeois state re-grew itself like a “Terminator”.

The next post will open the discussion of Chapter 1 of The State and Revolution. From then to the end of this series, the chapters will be sent out as weekly parts in a series, together with links to downloadable files of the original texts, in the tried-and-tested manner suitable for the holding of weekly political education study circles.