The role of the state

Charles Brown CharlesB at
Thu Oct 22 13:45:34 PDT 1998

Lenin elucidates the Marxist position on this issue in _The State and Revolution_. The state does not whither away until communism or the second phase of communism. In the first phase, there remains a state for the repression of the bourgeoisie. While there remain bourgeois states , there must still exist socialist states for defense. The latter point clears up a lot of confusion that arises as to how rapidly Leninists would anticipate the state whithering away in the Soviet Union or other socialist countries ( not until there is world wide socialism and no bourgeois states).

Engels defined the state in _The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State_ as a special repressive apparatus (standing bodies of armes personnel, prisons, etc.) which arose with exploitive class relations, by which the ruling class maintains its dominance. With the end of classes, the state becomes superfluous and whithers away , more than being affirmatively abolished.

Lenin emphasizes the interesting point that democracy is a form of the state. So strictly speaking, Engels argued, there is no such thing as a "People's State". The form of organization in communism is not democracy. With the whithering away of the state in communism there is merely the administration of things.

Charles Brown


In article < at>, James Devine <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

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