libertarian socialism

Fri Sep 29 20:04:59 PDT 2000

In a message dated 9/29/00 10:25:42 PM Eastern Daylight Time, joeG at writes:

<< Government IS the stronger people taking advantage of the weaker people.

The idea that the state is here to protect us is a myth. It oppresses

anyone that opposes the ruling class. Look at the repression that's going

on as a result of S26, racial profiling, the shooting of Amadou Diallo, the

School of the Americas and all of the other shit they're doing. The state

has always been used by the ruling class to oppress others. >>

This is one-sided even as a description of the bourgeois democratic state. To be sure, governments are often repressive and in class societies are more or less, but not, in democratic societies, wholly dominated by minorities of oppressors, typically the rich in capitalist societies. But the state is also an arena of class and other struggle. It cannot retain any legitimacy in the eyes of the subordinate groups, and so continue to rule without mass resistance, less it makes more or less serious concession to the interests of those groups. If it does not do so, if it tries to rule by brute force, it is likely to be destabilized by mass resistance. That is why it must claim to rule in the best interests of all and must actually do so to some extent.

Of course the extent to which it makes concessions to the interests of subordinate groups depends on the organized strength and solidarity of the subordinate groups and their ability to threaten the rule of trhe dominant groups and the state. When the working class and other groups are weak, the state becomes more opperessive. But when they are strong, it can be a way to secure real advances for the oppressed groups. That is why the welfare state exists, to the extent that it does: and institutions like Social Security, Medicare, antidiscrimination law, and the like are genuinely in the interests of the oppressed.

Moreover, the state serves other functions as wellL it does not merely provide an arena where the comperting group interests are compromised to a point of stability (in normal times). The state provides a forum and a set of rules for making and enforcing public decisions: in a democratic society, one that is more or less democratic. It provides a way to resolve disputes and prevent them from deteriorating into vigilantism and feuds, It also provides public goods like roads and schools that would not be provided in its absebce because each individual has reason to let others provide them while taking advantage of them himself. In a class society, the way it serves the roles is colored and distorted by the disproportionate influence of a particular narrow group, like the rich in capitalism. But the functions are necessary, and not merely exercises of domination and exploitation. We do need ways to make and enforce collective decisions, to peacably and fairly resolves dipsutes, and to provide roads, schools and the like. To say that we can do without the state without addressing these concern is not a responsible radical position, but merely a yell of anger.


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