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and Political Weekly, Vol. 24, No. 43 (Oct. 28, 1989), pp. 2431-2433 Published by: Economic and Political Weekly Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4395530 Accessed: 22/11/2008 04:30
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and to the people to do before long to free themselves from at large some particulartheoretical puzzle capitalist tyranny. He felt compelled to do this in order to counter the arguments of his fellow Marxists-Kautsky et al-who were either not in favour of a revolution at all and advocated reform. in Chapter I of the book. it has establish what Marx really taught on the acquiredimportanceonly because it is consubject to state'2(emphasis in original).". and a correct interpretation of sideringthis book. In nected with the question of the proletarian our view.what is importantis not that Lenin revolution. taking into account both the substance of the text and the book's underlying motive. And those who took the latter position believed that the bourgeois state-structure could be used. for the purposes of the proletarian state. Lenin felt it important to counter these beliefs immediately because there was a danger of the revolutionaries becoming complacent and losing the sharper edges of their revolutionary feelings if these beliefs prevailed. Lenin was never unwilling to make changes in the theory to make it more suitable to the practical needs of the moment.to explainingto the masseswhat they will have ordinary party workers. with of a socialist order in Russia. this revolutionshould necessarilytake and The question of its relation to the state is the methods it should adopt to successfully acquiringpracticalimportance.a revolutionary. it would give way to a proletarian state by the logical sequence of historical developments. "The struggle to free the take such an exercise. and (2) why this had to be a violent revolution. as it was. "is impossible rect understandingof the book. In the process he carried out some deliberate and unabashed distortions of Marxism. This attitude towards theory become~s evident from the following statement which he made immediately after the February revolution.he says.and the form proletarianrevolution is clearly maturing. is acquiring not only practical imporundertakesome theoretical work. And he gives a clear in. while con. rapidly developing practical tasks of the revolution into the procrustean bed of narrowly conceived 'theory'. but also the significance of a most with the expresspurposeof clarifyingto his urgent problem of the day. Whenever he did ".In socialist order. "The cidental. "if we attempted to force the complex. It that in ChapterI of the book Leninhimself is intimatelyconnectedwith the question of describes his 'prime task' to be 'to re. They viewed the state apparatus as a thing separate and apart from the interests of the class that held the reigns of power. both proletarianrevolutionto the state". And the question of the little more than polemical exeriises. Those who held the former position argued that the bourgeois state did not have to be overthrown by force. urgent. we shall Marx'sviews on state. editionof the book.'3 The problem of exor point. Looked at closely.the same preface.to do before long to free themselvesfrom line tical or strategical at a giventime on that capitalisttyranny..geoisie. In Marx's and Engels' theory of state. in a word. even his blemr Lenin sets out to tackle in The State theoreticalwriting revealthemseivesto be and Revolution. albeit socialist proletarianrevolutionand its relaa little weightierand profounderthan pure tion to the state is the gut issuie of this polemics. Further primarilyan attemptto expoundthe nature ahead in the preface he says: "The world of the proletarianrevolution. and-theadvantageor lack of it of plaining to the masses what thev will have adopting or not adopting a particulartac.. On a more general level. 1989 a socialist society. In the veryfirstsentence of the prefacehe says: "The question of the LENIN's book." This stateitself but also the underlyingmotive of the ment shows that Lenin'smain concernis the book." Here Lenin put and conclusively an end to the bourgeois moves from the 'question of state ' to the political order and establish in its place a question of the 'proletarianrevolution'.5 This attitude is further confirmed by another statement which he 2431 . he is not viewing the question We take this position in spite of the fact of the state as an independentquestion.the proletarian revolution. he restated certain tenets of Marxism in such a way that he could prove without doubt the immediate necessity of a violent revolution. the problem of opponents. socialist and otherwise.bourgeoisie.This in other words working people from the influence of the means that while trying to arriveat a cor. the author argues. Most of the time he was busy in question of the relation of the socialist polemics with his political opponents. To make this clearer. above all.. implying that any class could usurp this power and use the pre-existing state apparatus as it wished. struggle.is the probasis. citing in their support certain views of Marx and Engels. accuses of 'vulgarising' Marxism. 4 As a matter of fact. the aim problem.As a matterof fact. one has to without a struggleagainst opportunist preconsidernot only what is writtenin the book judices concerning the 'state'. quote two more statements of Lenin from sought to re-establish but ratherwhy he felt it necessaryto under. that it is primarily an attempt to define the nature. therefore. The penning of TheStateand Revolutionwasalso geared showingtwo thingsin TheStateand Revolutowardsthis aim.. like all his actions.form and method of the proletarian revolution tn order to conclusively terminate the bourgeois political order. "We would be committing a great mistake". was to take him nearerto the making of a II revolutionand the establishment proletarian Lenin was concerned. that Leninwas first and Marx'stheory of state is only a part of this foremosta politicalactivist. any dcoubt the regarding intentionsof Lenin the fact of his being a theorist was only in. other words. In The State and Revolution. in fact. or. he did it tance.' It is other words The State and Revolution was the position of this writer that the book is not merely a theoretical exercise. he said. In fact. of all Lenin'swritings.Restoring Revolutionary Theory Towards an Understanding of Lenin's The State and Revolution Rustam Singh While the generally held opinion is that Lenin's The State and Revolution is a restatemzent Marx's and Engels' of theory of state. to his colleagues in the party.. This.tion: (1) why a revolutionwas necessaryto dication of this in the preface to the first overthrowthe bourgeois state and establish Economic and Political Weekly October 28.The next statementdoes not leave and only then a theorist. state is now acquiringparticular importance is generally regarded as a restatementof both in theory and in practicalpolitics". struggle to free the workersfrom the bourWehave also to keep in mind. where they did favour a revolution-as in the case of Kautsky-they did not want violence to becarried so far as to destroy the institutional apparatus of the overthrown bourgeois state.in writing The State and Revolution. The State and Revolution. but the nature of these disfortions was different from that of the distortions carried out by 'opportunists' and 'social chauvinists' whom Lenin."says Lenin.
We get a confirmationof this from what he says further on in the same context.. differently. therefore. for this 'interpretation' only leaves a vague notion of a slow. According to Engels. "means reducing it to opportunism.there has been an extremely interlacing novelandunprecedented original.8 revolution. it is inconceivable that he would waste his time elaborating Marx's and Engels' theory of state at the height of preoccupation(The State and revolutionary Revolution was written in August and September1917). Here he is attacking those who believed that the bourgeois revolutionhad not yet been completed and. on this point. the bourgeois state does not 'wither away'.and he goes on to provethat the existence of the state means that the class antagonisms are irreconcilable..but.this panegyric is by no means a mere 'impulse'.obscures. ". Social Sciences.But why is Leninso concernedwith showing the origin and nature of the state? Because of the following reason: ..This. however... while the words about the state withering away refer to the remnants of the prol?tarian state after the socialist As Lucio Colletti observes: None of Lenin's writings [has] a 'conThis is less than ever character. tasks of the revolution.that the theoryof Marxand of Engelsof the inevitability a violentrevolution refersto the bourgeois state. ". as a matterof fact. "of the proletarian revolution 'abolishing' the bourgeois state. bears no resemblance with the original argument of Engels which is extremely rich in ideas. gradual change. to experienceandsalaryexpectations Applywithfulldetailsof qualifications.that it was too early revolution: to think in termsof a proletarian To deal with the questionof "completion" of the bourgeoisrevolutionin the old way to livingMarxism the deadletis to sacrifice the to ter. a meredeclamationor a polemicalsally.onething especiallywas provedby the Commune.According theold wayof thinking. "To prune Marxism to such an extent". as a general rule. as we havealreadyindicated.. and he relates the origin and development of the state only to point out the necessity of this destruction..quotedwordsregarding away'of the state.The panegyricEngels sang in its honour..... we can see.if not repudiates the role of revolution. and which fully corresponds to Marx's repeatedstatements. of the one with the other7 (emphasis in original).He clearlyhad some other purpose in mind.was to impressupon his followersand Marxistopponentsthe immediatenecessityof a violent revolution..... without the destruction of the ap- by of paratus statepowerwhichwascreated the rulingclass.And he conthe 'withering these for demnsthe 'revisionists' interpreting words in a way which gives the impression that accordingto Engels it is the bourgeois state that withers away. and that purpose.Leninthen gives his own interpretation of this phrase of Engels. says Lenin.This 'no one remembers'. This becomes clear when one looks at some more statements of Lenin about Engels' above-mentioned argument.it is essential to grasp the incontestable truth that a Marxistmust takecognisanceof real life. that 'theworking class cannotsimplylay hold of the readymade state machinery and wield it for its own purposes'. even. templative' the case with State and Revolution.made about a month later:. real by thingshavealready turnedout life.remarksLenin." Accordingto Lenin. and not cling to a which. the same work of Engels". had drawn this 'self-evident'conclusion on the basis of a concretehistoricalanalysisof the 2432 Economic and Political Weekly October 28. continues Lenin..viz.He supportshimself.. Lenin quotes the following words of Marx and Engels from the prefaceof the then new Germanedition of the Manifesto:". yet it is inseparably bound up with the 'withering away' of the state into one harmonious whole. these words of Marx and Engels have been distorted by the 'opportunists'to say that Marx here emphasises the idea of slow development in contradistinction to the seizureof power. III Lenin begins by clarifying the basic idea of Marxismwith regardto the state:that the state is the product of the irreconcilability of class antagonisms and an organ of class rule.If this was Lenin's theory. is clearthat the liberationof the oppressedclass is impossible. of absence of leaps and storms. Destruction of the apparatus of state power. couldand shouldbe.Engels speaks here". (emphasisin original).. "and shall show more fully later.. 1989 .etc.. like all theories.Its work is a mix natural of towards preparation and and journalism policyresearch is mainlydirected public materials designedto createan informed and publications informational opinion. through the process of 'withering away'. Thus it disregardsthe 'most important'element of Engels' argument. Lenin whatto do embarked uponit so as to decide in the ongoingrevolution. but is 'abolished'by the proletariatin the course of the revolution"10(emphasisin original). of the true facts of reality." "We have already said above". Lenin has deliberatelymade it appear to be heavily tilted on the side of revolution. But this only goes to show Lenin'sbias in favourof revolutionand his impatiencewith the notion of slow. A careful readingof Engels' argumentas quoted by Leninrevealsthat even this is not an exactly correct interpretation of what Engels says. ruleof the bourgeoisie and followed by the rule of the proletariat In the peasantry.The necessity of systematically imbuing the masses with this and preciselythis view of violent revolutionlies at the root of the entire theory of Marx and Engels""i (emphasis in original). Talkingof the correctionsthat Marx and Engels felt should be made in the Communist Manifesto on the basis of lessons experienceof drawnfrom the revolutionary the Paris Commune. of absenceof revolution" of This interpretation the witheringawayof the state.9 Lenin next attempts to clarify the meaning of Engels'often. according to Lenin. If the state is the product of the irrecon- CENTRE FOR SCIENCEAND ENVIRONMENT 807 Vishal Bhawan.statesLeinin.also contains an argument of the significance of violent revolution.accordingto Lenin. by citing Marx who he says. 95 Nehru Place New Delhi 110 019 The Centre for Science and Environment invites applications for the posts of Senior Researchers in Science. it of cilability classantagonisms.an organfor the oppressionof one class by another. only through a violent revolution. The latter cannot be superseded by the proletarian state.Engels' historicalanalysis of its panegyricon violent role becomesa veritable And revolution.. only comes near to embracinglife in all its complexity"6 (emphasis in attitudetowards original).. gradual change. . with concerned sustainable research organisation is The Centre a publicinterest betweenindepth resourcemanagementin India. was the centralconcernof Lenin. But. theirdictatorship. the Director.. theory of yesterday. at best only outlines the main and the general.."whose argument about the withering away of the state everyoneremembers.
confine itself merely to laying hold of it". 15 Ibib.an act whereby one part of the population imposes its will upon the other by means of rifles.. 20 Ibid. it retains its fundamental distinguishing feature of transformingthe officials. 14 Ibid. of the proletariat rulingclass.until generationrearedin new. Progress Publishers..'9This kind of state. 22 Ibid. p 242.18 Explainingthis what accordingto him may seem "strangeand incomprehensible" argument. and of 'robbing'their revolutionary theories of their 'revolutionary edge'.. 2 Selected Works. 1964.Some such thing can also be said about Leninand his theory as expounded in this book. ceases to exist. towards 'greater and greater democracy'. Having shown that it is the proletarian state that shall wither away and not the bourgeois state.Engelshad taken"the bull by the horns" (emphasisin original)..and indeed in the democratic in And no republic less than. Moscow. 11 Ibid.p 498. Lenin says that since democracy of "recognises subordination the minorithe ty to the majority. 17 Ibid. Glasgow. proceeds through the dictatorship of the proletariat.'5 In otherwords. after their death.20 democraticrepublic.. "Andthe victorious party must maintain its rule by means of terror which its arms inspirein the reactionaries"."Arevolution is. ending with the defeat of the workers' "This summaryof the experience of bourgeois revolutions is as concise as it remarksLenin. Oxford University Press. 16 Ibid. smash and not the 'ready-madestate machinery".. 18 Ibid. "Forward development. 19 Ibid. Lenin. Oxford.its organs. pp 251-52. that is. October 28. p 297. London. Engels observesin this summary that in France the workers emerged with arms from everyrevolution. especiallyKautCastigatingthe 'revisionists'. p 285. Moscow..'7 Lenintakes special pains. and that the former can be established only through a violent revolution. "The essence is expressive".. "mayjustly be called the last wordof Marxismon the questionunder consideration". i e.. Volume 2.. and by petty-bourgeois democrats" (emphasis in original).. This summary.cites Engels' preface to the third edition of Marx's pamphlet The Civil Warin France whereEngelsgives a summaryof the lessons of the ParisCommuneand of the bourgeois revolutions precedingthat.And every was time ". p 240. realisable ship of the proletariat which for the first time brings 'democracyfor the people' (emA phasis in original).ishere remarkably is precisely this essence that is most often evaded both by professors influenced by bourgeois ideology. Marx had ridiculedthem for suggestingthat after overthrowing the bourgeois state the workers should immediately lay down their arms.e. p 254. p 330. for ignoringthis elementof the Marxian theory. 5 'LettersFrom Afar: Third Letter'. From this 'capitalist democracy' forward development does not proceed 'simply.' He then quotes Engelsto reinforcehis argument. only then the state. according to Lenin. 1964.. by degrees. 1976. 1989 2433 . obscure[and] distortthe revolutionary side of this theory.the exact opposite is true. p 240..What he did oppose was the propositionthat the workers should renouncethe use of arms. IV In chapter 1 of The State and Revolution. periodinevitably violent is a period of an unprecedentedly class struggle in unprecedentedlyacute forms. the view that the state would disappearwhen classes disappeared.(emphasisin original). Engels had said.to centraliseall inin struments production the handsof the of as organised the state. in this connection. p 292. Lenin maintains that to achieve the aim of abolishing the state the workers"must temporarily make use of the instruments. p 240. Vol 2. when the resistanceof the capitalistshas been completely crushed.i. 10 Ibid.. for the resistance of the capitalist exploiters cannot be broken by anyone else or in any other way".of the. on the other hand. p 85. it would not havehad to 'abolish'the institutions of the state-they would have ceased to function as they ceased to have anything to do. saysLenin. Oxford University Press. organised violence. Lenintalks of attemptsto convertthe revolutionaries into 'harmless icons'. Progress Publishers. . an organisation for the systematic use of force by one class against another". (has the oppressed class well grasped. the state.. Volume 24.Collected Works. the 'servantsof society'. Lenin asserts that the proletariatneeds the state. 13 Ibid.. after every revolutionwon by the workers.. op cit. Quoting Engels. A Marxism: Historicaland CriticalStudy. p 302. Fontana/Collins. at this point. and consequently alwaysremains. Only in communist society.. 1982. bayonets and canon.. And he had accusedthe ParisCommunefor making "too little use" of such means.it might have succeeded. Lenin takes up the task of demonstratingthe necessity of the continued use of violence for the thorough and systematic abolition of the remnantsof the bourgeoisie has afterthe proletariat come into power. and cannot do otherwise.It arms?).to the to theclassstruggle thecardinal to fromcapitalism comperiodof transition abolitionof the munism. a democracyfor the minority. p 249... pp 294-95. and George Lichtheim. who were at the helm of the state. 1972. free social conditionsis able to discardthe entirelumberof the state. He . Attempts to presentthis theory primarilyas a theoryof stateand not as a theoryof revolution "omiit. sky. 4 Ibid. Hence. of the matter.. 3 Ibid. Routledge and Kegan Paul.had the Communemade full and timelyuse-of its coercivepower. not in interests of freedom but in order to hold down its adversaries.'4 Lenin refers. directly and smoothly'. emphasisesLenin. 6 'Letters on Tactics: First Letter'. Main Currents of Marxism. p 226. 1980. into the masters of society.'.. reality. but also in a democrrtic republic'that 'the state remains a state... In of buta machine theoppression one class for by another. is only underthe dictatorhowever. i e. The words "to smash the ready-madestate machinery"'Leninemphasises. "Marx's idea is that the workingclass must bregkup... remains hemmed in by the narrow limits set by capitalist exploitation. By doing this. He quotes Engels according to whom. pp 45-6.all capital from the bourgeosie. "briefly expressthe principallesson of Marxismregarding the tasks of the proletariat during a revolution in relation to the state"12 (emphasis in original). reality.. the monarchy. .. stateis nothing republic.. 12 Ibid.... development towards communism.. Volume 23.a new struggle.thedisarmingof the workers the first commandmentfor the bourgeois. which is to serve to 'crushthe resistanceof the bourgeoisie'. p 45.All 'traces-ofthe state in it' would-then 'have withered away' of themEconomic and Political Weekly selves. Leszek Kolakowski. and it becomes possible to speak of freedom (emphasis in original). pp 238-39. Delhi. as the liberal professors and petty-bourgeoisopportunists would have us believe. Progress Publishers.He quotes Marx and Engels to outline the tasks of the proletariat from now on: The proletariat will use its political to supremacy wrest.in effect.thereforeit is still a state (emphasis in original). Lenin says: of does Opportunism not extendrecognition point... at bestit is an evilinherited theproletariat by after the victorious struggle for class whoseworstsidesthe victorious supremacy. 7 Ibid.peoplethinkthey havetakenquite an extraordinarily bold step forwardwhen they have rid themselvesof belief in hereditary monarchy and swear by the democratic however. 21 Ibid. as will proletariat haveto lop off as speedily a possible. resources and methods of state power against the exploiters. Robert Coniquest. pp 263-64.complete this In bourgeoisie. Collected Works. pp 301-02. p 262. 1978. for example. i e. p 350. to emphasisethat accordingto Engelsit is 'not only under a monarchy. to Marx's controversywith the anarchists.its revolutionary soul". 22 Notes 1 See. Marx did not 'at all' oppose. 9 Selected Works. Moscow. 8 From Rousseau to Lenin: Studies in Ideology and Society.'6 That the bourgeoisie understood these processes of revolution much better than most socialists is also shown by Lenin. pp 281-83.
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