marxism

THE STATE AND REVOLUTION (Study Guide)


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THE STATE AND REVOLUTION class 1

READING

a Lenin, The State and Revolution, Chs. I-III [39 pages]

SUPPLEMENTARY READING

b    Engels, “The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State“, Chs. V-IX,

DISCUSSION POINTS

1. What is the cause of the existence of states? What purpose do they serve? Why is it false to view the state as an organ for the reconciliation of class antagonisms? What are the chief instruments of state power?

2    Does the existence of legislative institutions (parliaments) elected by all of the people invalidate the Marxist view of the state as an instrument of class rule?

3 Why do the workers need their own state to abolish capitalism and build socialism? Why can’t the capitalist state machine simply be taken over by workers and used to advance their class interests?

4    Lenin writes: “The suppression of the bourgeois state by the proletarian state is impossible without a violent revolution.” Why is this?

5    Marxists have stated that their aim is to replace the capitalist state with the “dictatorship of the proletariat”. What does this mean? How does the use of the term “dictatorship” here differ from the common use of this term to describe -brutally repressive governments that deny democratic rights? Why is the “dictatorship of the proletariat” consistent with a qualitative widening of the democratic rights for working people?

6   Lenin writes: “To confine Marxism to the theory of the class struggle means curtailing Marxism, distorting it, reducing it to something acceptable to the bourgeoisie.”  Why is this?

7   What lessons did Marx draw from the experience of the 1871 uprising of the Parisian workers (the “Paris Commune”) about the specific forms of the workers’ state power that was to replace the capitalist state? Why was the Commune-type state not a state in the strict sense of the term?

8    Lenin says, “We cannot imagine democracy, even proletarian democracy, without  representative institutions, but we can and must imagine democracy without parliamentarism, if criticism of bourgeois society is not mere words for us, if the desire to overthrow the rule of the bourgeoisie is our earnest and sincere desire… ”  Why is this? How would the representative institutions of a working- class democracy differ from parliamentarism?

9  If Marxists are opposed to the parliamentary system, why do we favour participation in parliamentary elections?

10 Lenin wrote: “All officials, without exception, elected and subject to recall at any time, their salaries reduced to the level of ordinary ‘workmen’s wages’… these simple and ‘self-evident’ democratic measures, while completely uniting the interests of the workers and the majority of peasants, at the same time serve as a bridge leading from capitalism to socialism.”  How would these measures unite the interests of the workers with the majority of the middle class (the peasantry, in Russia’s case)? How would they “serve as a bridge leading from capitalism to socialism”? What further measures would need to be taken to abolish capitalism and establish the foundations for building socialism?

 

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THE STATE AND REVOLUTION class 2 

READING

a   Lenin, The State and Revolution, Chs. IV-VI [48 pages]

SUPPLEMENTARY READING

b    Lenin, “The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky”

c     Marx, Critique of the Gotha Program

DISCUSSION POINTS

  1. What is the difference between the Marxist and the anarchist view of the state?   Do Marxists and anarchists share the same view of how the future classless society would be organised?
  2. Why did Marx and Engels criticise the German socialists’ use of the formula “people’s state” to describe their political goals?
  3. Lenin writes: “Approaching the matter [of the forms of the state] from the standpoint of the proletariat and the proletarian revolution, Engels, like Marx, upheld democratic centralism … one and indivisible.”  How would such a centralized republic to avoid “ordering from above” and allow local self-government? Why did it provide greater local freedom than a federal republic? Why did Engels believe a federal republic would be a “step forward” in Britain?
  4.   What is democracy? What change occurs to democracy in the transition period from capitalism to communist society? Why will democracy wither away as society reaches the higher phase of communism? What will replace it?
  5.  Why does Lenin argue that the German Social-Democratic leader Karl Kautsky “has not understood the difference between bourgeois parliamentarism, which combines democracy (not for the people) with bureaucracy (against the people), and proletarian democracy, which will take immediate steps to cut bureaucracy down to the roots … “?  What is bureaucracy? Why does parliamentary democracy inevitably go hand in hand with bureaucracy? How will proletarian democracy “cut bureaucracy down to its roots”?
  6. Lenin cites the following statements by Kautsky: ” … under no circumstances, can it [that is, the proletarian victory over a hostile government] lead to the destruction of the state power; it can lead only to a certain shifting [verschiebung] of the balance of forces within the state power ... The aim of our political struggle remains, as in the past, the conquest of state power by winning a majority in parliament and by raising parliament to the rank of master of the government.”  Why does Lenin criticise these statements as “the purest and most vulgar opportunism”?

 

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