Showing posts with label the state. Show all posts
Showing posts with label the state. Show all posts

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The State of Capitalism

The State is the coercive public power of society and is bound up with the existence of classes. Before classes came into being there was no State. When classes cease to exist there will be no State. Some societies without States have continued to exist right up to our own times such as among the Indians of the Amazon. We find a social organisation, but nothing corresponding to the State. Order in these communities is maintained spontaneously without any system or apparatus of coercion, notwithstanding the number of common affairs to be adjusted, because their institutions did, not give rise to any antagonism between categories of individuals, for all were free and equal. However socialists do not aspire to return back to this way of life. It is simply mentioned to demonstrate the existence of organised societies without a State.

As soon as there are in a society a possessing class and a dispossessed class there exists in that society constant conflict. The owning class to ensure the continuing submission of the dispossessed requires a power charged with maintaining the “established order” of things. This has been the role of the State. The State is, under its varying forms, a class-instrument which has lasted and will last on that account so long as there have been and so long as there shall be classes. The State, being a consequence, cannot disappearance before the disappearance of the social conditions of which it is the necessary result and caused it to arise. It cannot be abolished before the disappearance of classes, a disappearance that it must itself help to bring to pass. For this purpose, socialists, seek the conquest of political power - the conquest of the State.

In the countries still without democracy and the power of the vote, the struggle is to obtain it. In the countries where universal suffrage is in operation, regardless of its imperfections the system may have, the task of workers is to return more and more socialists to the various elective assemblies. Is it worth while to undertake special campaigns to secure changes and modifications such as devolution or independence which are of secondary importance? It is also possible that future circumstances may impose upon us another mode of action, but that is a matter with which we have nothing to do at present. So long as such circumstances have not come to pass, socialism has nothing to gain by departing from the constitutional electoral process The work of socialists must be to swell the numbers of socialists.

Free and equal, the producers will decide in common everything concerning production, and henceforth, instead of being the puppets of economic forces beyond their control, they will rule these forces in accordance with their good pleasure. Far from being compelled to submit to a social organisation without any regard to their wishes, as is the case at present, they will have, for the first time, the kind of social organisation which will make humanity the masters of their own destiny.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Marx and Engels on the power of the vote

It's often pointed out that our political system is completely corrupted by money yet history teaches that people's influence on their governments is much more powerful than we usually imagine. It's weakened primarily by people's failure to do anything and the mistaken belief that we don't have the power to shape the world as we wish it to be.

Marx and Engels strongly supported political action in the sense of participating in elections. They stressed the importance of the vote. Engels explains that universal suffrage "in an England two-thirds of whose inhabitants are industrial proletarians means the exclusive political rule of the working class with all the revolutionary changes in social conditions which are inseparable from it." Marx argued along the same lines, for example, in 1855, he stated that "universal suffrage . . . implies the assumption of political power as means of satisfying [the workers'] social means" and, in Britain, "revolution is the direct content of universal suffrage."

In 1852 Marx wrote, concerning the Chartists:

“But universal suffrage is the equivalent of political power for the working class of England, where the proletariat forms the large majority of the population, where, in a long though underground civil war, it has gained a clear consciousness of its position as a class and where even the rural districts know no longer any peasants, but only landlords, industrial capitalists (farmers) and hired labourers. The carrying of universal suffrage in England would, therefore be a far more socialistic measure than anything which has been honoured with that name on the continent. Its inevitable result, here is the political supremacy of the working class.” [Marx emphasis]
His meaning is clear - a working class majority in Parliament, backed by a majority of the population, can bring about the real transfer of power.

Monday, April 15, 2013

The End of the State

Continuing to correct some misunderstandings about the ideas of Karl Marx.

Most of the misconceptions regarding socialism have been propagated by those who wish to emulate the Russian Revolution. It is unfortunate that when their so-called “marxism” became the official ideology of the ruling class in Russia the anti-state sentiments of Marx and Engels have been downplayed or downright distorted.

Workers State

The society which organizes production anew on the basis of free and equal association of the producers will put the whole state machinery where it will then belong - into the museum of antiquities, next to the spinning wheel and the bronze ax.” Engels

Neither Marx or Engels ever advocated a "worker's state". Both wanted to use the state's apparatus used to overthrow the bourgeoisie, at which point it would have served its purpose and would be dismantled.

Many on the Left are convinced that Russia was some sort of "workers state’ albeit some qualifying it as being deformed. A "Workers State" is not actually a state controlled by the workers, but a state controlled by a vanguard party in the name of the workers. The 'workers state’ meant governmental rule by a vanguard party, the Bolsheviks, and by adding control over the economy by nationalisation to the political control of the government, the totalitarian rule over all of society emerged in full.

“Workers State” is a contradiction in terms, but if it is to mean anything it would have to mean that the workers controlled the state; which could only be done through some democratic mechanism. But the workers never controlled the state in Russia. Within a few years of the Bolsheviks seizing power in November 1917 they had suppressed all other parties and established a one-party dictatorship.

Marx explains that although revolution the proletariat will be “raised to a governing class” this has nothing to do with creating a dictatorship of a political sect, but is rather a claim that the proletariat will use “general means of coercion” to remove the bourgeoisie’s power (by abolishing the private ownership of the means of production, disbanding the standing army, and so forth). It is the entire proletariat that is to exercise this power. In reply to a question raised by the anarchist Bakunin, “Will all 40 million [German workers] be members of the government?” Marx responds, “Certainly! For the system starts with the self-government of the communities.”

The purpose of seeking political action and capturing the state-machine is not to take office and form a government but simply and solely to take state power out of the hands of the capitalist class since it is through controlling this organ that the capitalist class is able to maintain its possession of the means of production.

“ In order, therefore, to assert themselves as individuals, they [proletarians] must overthrow the State” German Ideology