The State

The statePolitical turmoil is revealing the capitalist system's most intimate and secret inner workings. All the instruments that have been designed and perfected over centuries to impose and preserve the rule of a tiny minority of outrageously wealthy capitalists over the vast majority are being laid bare.

The main tool for achieving this is the state, which can be simply defined as “armed bodies of men” employed in the defence of the property relations of the ruling class. This includes both repressive bodies like the army and police, but also the courts and judiciary.

Revolution is back on the agenda on a world scale. We are witnessing the radicalisation of the class struggle and the first attempts by the youth and the working class to shake off oppressive rule. In this context, a correct understanding of the state is of vital importance. Millions of people are beginning to understand through their own experience that the capitalist state and its repressive forces stand in the way of any attempt to challenge the dominant position of the capitalists in society and transform it.

How did the state arise historically in the first place? Has it always existed? What is its function? What is the nature of bourgeois democracy and capitalist rule? Could the existing bourgeois state be used by the exploited to transform society and effect revolutionary change? Can political power for the working class be achieved merely through electoral means? Could the state be abolished or overthrown and what type of organisation should humanity strive for when capitalism is overthrown? What are the tasks for the working class and a socialist revolution in relation to the state, and how can it succeed?

Only an accurate study of Marxist theory can provide an answer to these questions.

Last year, constitutional crises arose in Britain, the USA, Spain, Poland, and Brazil. Such crises present big problems for the ruling class because the state, and the constitutional laws that surround it, are deliberately mystified. Parliamentary democracy and the Rule of Law are treated as immutable ideas woven into the fabric of the universe. So when crises develop over the structure of the bourgeois state itself, this risks dispelling its aura of mystery and power.

In this talk at a 2017 day school on the Russian Revolution, Daniel Morley of the Socialist Appeal editorial board discusses the question of revolutionary insurrection, examining how Marxists approach the question of the seizure of power.

I have been asked by my Swedish comrades to write a brief preface to Lenin’s State and Revolution – a task which I readily agreed to, given the enormous importance of this work for the worldwide struggle for socialism. Strangely enough, the question of the state, despite its colossal significance, is something that does not normally occupy the attention of even the most advanced workers.

In this recording from the Revolution 2016 weekend school, Daniel Morley of the Socialist Appeal editorial board discusses the idea of workers' democracy, contrasting this with the formal democracy that we have under capitalism, and explaining the ways in which the working class can take control of the wider economy.

This work by Alan Woods, provides a comprehensive explanation of the Marxist method of analysing history. This first part establishes the scientific basis of historical materialism. The ultimate cause of all social change is to be found, not in the human brain, but in changes in the mode of production.

On 15th June 1215, King John I of England signed a document known as the Great Charter (Magna Carta in Latin). This document was the product of a civil war that had been raging between John and his nobles. The document contained a number of concessions by John, through which he agreed to limit his power as king in return for the loyalty of his subjects.

One of the great classics of Marxism is the book by Frederick Engels entitled 'The Origins of the Family, Private Property and the State'. Engels applies the method of historical materialism to this earliest period of pre-history to uncover the past. Rob Sewell, editor of Socialist Appeal, gives an introduction to the book and explains how class society came into existence.

The ideas of Marx have never been more relevant than they are today. This is reflected in the thirst for Marxist theory at the present time. In this article, Alan Woods deals with the main ideas of Karl Marx and their relevance to the crisis we're passing through today.

In Italy under Mussolini, formally speaking, there were “trade unions”. However, they were state-run unions, i.e. instruments of the state. One therefore should not confuse these “unions” with genuine trade unions. Yet, in spite of this, Communists worked successfully inside them.

When the 1929 Crash broke out it affected the Italian economy dramatically. Italy had just been through a serious monetary crisis, from which it had not yet recovered when the world crisis broke out. In this situation the capitalists desperately turned to the State for help.

The classical view of how capitalism develops is that within feudal society a class emerges made up of merchants, bankers, early industrialists, i.e. the bourgeoisie, and that for this class to be able to develop its full potential a bourgeois revolution is required to break the limits imposed by the landed feudal aristocracy. That is how things developed, more or less, in countries like France and England, but not in Japan.

Hear Fred Weston speaking to a recent meeting of Socialist Appeal in Edinburgh on the current Iranian Revolution. He also connects the movement against the Iranian regime with an analysis on the question of the state in a capitalist society.