The State and Revolution, (Lenin’s pamphlet – a polemic against Kautsky, Plekhanov and the Anarchists) was an apt title in the light of his view of the relationship between a revolution and the nature of a post-capitalist society. He and the Bolsheviks undoubtedly believed in Revolution, at least up to the overthrow of the Duma, the rejection of Constituent Assembly idea and achieving ‘all power to the soviets’. However, they also firmly believed in the need for a strong State.
The workers, soldiers and peasants, from 1905 to 1917, progressively initiated uprisings and revolutionary episodes and then, riding an exceptionally high wave of activity and protest in October 1917, the Bolsheviks convinced workers, soldiers and peasants that for their own good, it was necessary to create a strong state apparatus. They created a state institution which they protected and strengthened by employing special bodies of (predominantly) armed men. As the effective head of that state, Lenin in 1919 declared the following;
“This new state organisation is being born in travail …” (Lenin. Complete Works. Volume 29. page 375.)
Later he added;
“The dictatorship of the proletariat does not fear any resort to compulsion and to the most severe, decisive and ruthless forms of coercion by the state.” (Lenin. Complete Works. Volume 31. page 497.)
“We took over the old machinery of the state, and that was our misfortune. Very often this machinery operates against us…here at the top, where we exercise political power, the machine functions somehow…Down below, however, there are hundreds of thousands of old officials whom we got from the Tsar and from bourgeois society, and who partly deliberately and partly unwittingly, work against us.” (Lenin. Complete Works. Volume 33 page 428/429.)
This institution of ‘ruthless coercion’ (Lenin’s own words) was progressively directed against workers and peasants and anyone else who disagreed with the Bolsheviks sectarian project. However, well before the workers, peasants and soldiers could be convinced of the need for such a separate institution over and above them, the ranks of the Bolsheviks had first to be convinced – for it was by no means the opinion of all anti-capitalists at the time.
As the dominant political figure within the Bolshevik faction of the Russian Social Democratic Party, it was down to Lenin to provide sufficient evidence for his belief in the necessity of a strong post-capitalist state. This task was crucially important in order to persuade the party and its supporters that those who opposed a post-capitalist state were entirely wrong. The evidence was carefully gathered, collated and then later presented to the party members in the above-noted pamphlet ‘State and Revolution’. Lenin, in writing this document, selected and assembled a comprehensive series of extracts from Marx and Engels, to support and back up his firm belief in the ‘instrumentality’ of a state after a workers’ revolution.
Lenin was able to interpret and mediate the thoughts and writings of these two revolutionary-humanists in order to confirm conclusions he already held. It is my contention that these were conclusions that – had they been alive – both Marx and Engels, would have disassociated themselves from. I have also no doubt they would have also been vigorously scathing about the reality of the post-capitalist social and economic forms promoted and defended by all Bolsheviks, and subsequent communists. For Marx it was; ‘State or Revolution; whilst for Lenin it really was ‘State and Revolution’. The material the latter used in that pamphlet and how he used it to justify his position is examined in the extended version of this article at ‘State or Revolution’.
Roy Ratcliffe (August 2013)