The role of the state

Michael Hoover hoov at
Wed Oct 21 16:12:45 PDT 1998

> <jdevine at> writes
> >I interpret Marx's bit about the withering away of the state as
> >referring to the end of the separation -- the alienation -- of the people
> >from the state and the end of the domination of the former by the latter.
> >That is, the perfection of democracy.
> Engels used the phrase withering away of the state; Marx used the more
> logically succinct "abolish" in this context. You may interpret Engels
> or Marx's statements as the end of the separation of people from the
> state, but there is no evidence that this is what Marx or Engels meant.
> In fact, the evidence from both strongly suggests that post-capitalist
> will be stateless.
> Lew

Marx asks, in *Critique of the Gotha Programme*, 'what transformation will the state undergo in commumnist society? In other words, what social functions will remain in existence there that are analogous to present state functions?'...

there are four basic/general functions of the modern state: minimum of security and order, mediation among conflicting interests, regulation and coordination of basic activitites, is the last of these which makes the state an instrument of class rule, while the others are socially necessary common coercive power disappears, the separation of state and civil society, and the necessity of bureaucratic control would be decisions and administrative functions would come under the domain of democratic organization...Marx states, in *The Conspectus of Bakunin's State and Anarchy*, 'when class rule has disappeared a state in the now accepted political sense of the world no longer exists*...

is a stateless society as utopian as many have been led to believe?, because it would mean transformation from a bureaucratic society to a participatory participation and dialogue - not simply voting for political representativves - would mark the determination of basic goals, short and long range planning, and responsibility for their achievement...

in above sense, the immediate post-capitalist period would allow society to begin to take over functions previously performed by the political state...characterized by radical changes in structure, personnel, and methods of operation, transfer of power (seizure of power by?) to workers would begin to 'restore to the social body all forces hitherto absorbed by the state parasite feeding upon, and clogging the free movement of society' (*Civil War in France*)

I do not profess to any specific knowledge about how we get from now to then, nor do I have any special insight as to how we might specifically apply the above general framework...but then Marx cautioned against - and refrained from) - writing 'cookbooks of the future' (something about which Carrol periodically reminds us)... perhaps Gramsci's notion of 'prefigurative' institutions/organizations can be of help, as Marx himself noted, 'workers must establish their own revolutionary government, whether in the form of municipal committes and municipal councils or workers' clubs and workers; councils' (*Address to the Communist League*)...Michael Hoover

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