Workers Vanguard No. 940

31 July 2009


On the Withering Away of the State

(Quote of the Week)

In his 1917 work, The State and Revolution, Bolshevik leader V.I. Lenin described the post-revolutionary transition from a workers state (dictatorship of the proletariat) to communism. This requires a series of workers revolutions internationally, extending to the economically advanced capitalist-imperialist countries. The expropriation of the capitalist class on a global scale and the establishment of collectivized, planned economies based on international planning would lay the material basis for the qualitative leap in labor productivity and material abundance necessary for the eventual “withering away” of the state and the creation of classless, communist society.

The dictatorship of the proletariat, i.e., the organisation of the vanguard of the oppressed as the ruling class for the purpose of suppressing the oppressors, cannot result merely in an expansion of democracy. Simultaneously with an immense expansion of democracy, which for the first time becomes democracy for the poor, democracy for the people, and not democracy for the money-bags, the dictatorship of the proletariat imposes a series of restrictions on the freedom of the oppressors, the exploiters, the capitalists....

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 copy-book maxims. They will become accustomed to observing them without force, without coercion, without subordination, without the special apparatus for coercion called the state....

The state will be able to wither away completely when society adopts the rule: “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs,” i.e., when people have become so accustomed to observing the fundamental rules of social intercourse and when their labour has become so productive that they will voluntarily work according to their ability.

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