Workers Vanguard No. 1120

20 October 2017


The Marxist Theory of the State

(Quote of the Week)

As the proletarian revolution in Russia was unfolding, V.I. Lenin wrote The State and Revolution to reclaim the Marxist theory of the state from the distortions of the opportunists. Lenin underlined the need for the working class to overthrow the rule of the bourgeoisie and replace it with the dictatorship of the proletariat, which, extended internationally, would lay the basis for the withering away of the state in a communist society.

The completion of The State and Revolution was “‘interrupted’ by...the eve of the October revolution,” as Lenin noted in the postscript, concluding, “It is more pleasant and useful to go through the ‘experience of the revolution’ than to write about it.” He continued his critique the following year in The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky.

Marx continued:

“Between capitalist and communist society lies the period of the revolutionary transformation of the one into the other. Corresponding to this is also a political transition period in which the state can be nothing but the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat.”...

Democracy for the vast majority of the people, and suppression by force, i.e., exclusion from democracy, of the exploiters and oppressors of the people—this is the change democracy undergoes during the transition from capitalism to communism.

Only in communist society, when the resistance of the capitalists has been completely crushed, when the capitalists have disappeared, when there are no classes (i.e., when there is no distinction between the members of society as regards their relation to the social means of production), only then “the state...ceases to exist,” and “it becomes possible to speak of freedom.” Only then will a truly complete democracy become possible and be realised, a democracy without any exceptions whatever. And only then will democracy begin to wither away, owing to the simple fact that, freed from capitalist slavery, from the untold horrors, savagery, absurdities and infamies of capitalist exploitation, people will gradually become accustomed to observing the elementary rules of social intercourse that have been known for centuries and repeated for thousands of years in all copybook maxims. They will become accustomed to observing them without force, without coercion, without subordination, without the special apparatus for coercion called the state.

—V.I. Lenin, The State and Revolution (August-September 1917)