From the VG Bookshelf: The State and Revolution (Pt. 4)

From the VG Bookshelf: The State and Revolution (Pt. 4)

From the VG Bookshelf: The State and Revolution (Pt. 4)

Last week, I commented that reading Lenin in English seemed to be more difficult than it had when I first read it in Russian. Whether that’s the case or not, one thing is clear, Lenin was a master of stating a premise, cherry-picking supporting quotes from foundation documents and then convincing people only he and his followers were the true believers and guardians of socialism.

Unlike my previous posts (which you can find here, here, here and here.), I’ve going to cover several chapters today. The reason is simple. Lenin was a lawyer and these chapters are prime examples of how he states the same principles and comes to the same conclusions. The only real difference is one chapter is based on quotes from Marx and the other on quotes from Engels. In fact, it would be easy to say it all boils down to this: the bourgeois state must be violently overthrown. The proletariat state will follow and it will gradually erode. That erosion, however, will be slow and the new state will put the boot heel on the necks of everyone who doesn’t comply until that erosion is complete and we have a true socialist commune at some undetermined time in the future.

Riiight.

The problem with leaving it that way is we miss the nuances of what Lenin advocated. More importantly, we miss the nuances of what members of our own government – not to mention those who want to be members of the government – have been trying to implement here. Do not be fooled by the fact they are trying to work within the confines of our Constitution (or find ways around it or to subvert it). They are determined to change our government and our way of life here in the U.S. whether we like it or not. Oh, they might think they are doing the “right” thing, but that is because they have fallen for the utopian bullshit so many do who believe socialism is the only way for us to survive.

On to Lenin.

It is interesting, and perhaps a bit reassuring, to note Lenin’s comments about those he felt did not understand nor embrace what he saw as the true meaning of Marx’s comments about the overthrow of the state. Those people, he felt, had distorted Marx’s views by believing in a slow development of the socialist state instead of the overthrowing of the state.

In fact, the exact opposite is the case. Marx’s notion is that the working class must break up, smash the ‘ready-made state machine’, and not confine itself merely to seizing hold of it.” (TSAR pg 34)

So far, we haven’t seen that in the U.S. However, don’t fool yourself. That time is coming if we don’t start recognizing the signs and take a stand. That is especially true now, when the liberals are so deep in Trump Derangement Syndrome that the very mention of a military parade can send them into apoplexy. It is true when you have experts of media manipulation like Donny Deutsch calling for people to take to the streets to start a revolution. So, it is more important than ever that we know what their handbook says and understand it even better than they do. That is the only way for us to anticipate their next move and counter it.

These words, ‘to smash the bureaucratic– military state machine’, concisely express Marxism’s principal lesson on the tasks of the proletariat in the revolution in relation to the state.” (TSAR, pg 34)

To smash. Not to change. Not to evolve. Not to reform. To smash and, by inference, to destroy.

[P]articular attention is due to Marx’s extremely profound remark that the destruction of the bureaucratic– military state machine is ‘the prerequisite for every true people’s revolution’.” (TSAR, pg 35)

Here is where we need to start paying close attention. The smashing of the bureaucratic-military state machine is just the first step. What comes next is what those who spout the joys of socialism forget. Worse, those who haven’t forgotten it simply ignore or wave off the failures of the Soviet Union and other socialist/communist nations as having fallen from the one true way.

When discussing 1871 Europe, Lenin wrote:

A ‘people’s’ revolution tugging the majority along into the movement, could be such only if it embraced both the proletariat and the peasantry. These two classes then constituted the ‘people’. These two classes are united by the fact that the ‘bureaucratic– military state machine’ oppresses, crushes, exploits them. To smash this machine and break it up is truly in the interest of the ‘people’, of the majority, of the workers and the majority of the peasants: this is ‘the preliminary condition’ for a free union between the poorest peasants and the proletarians; and democracy in the absence of such a union is unstable and socialist transformation impossible.” (TSAR pg 36)

Compare the above with some of the rhetoric we heard coming out of the Clinton or Sanders camps during the 2016 campaign season. Compare it with what we have heard from the more vocal BLM activists. Compare it to what we heard from Ocasio-Cortez and Beto O’Rourke, just to name a couple of the “new faces”. Now compare it with the fear-mongering we hear on a daily basis from the MSM. They might not precisely tell us to rise up and take to the streets in open revolution but that is the sub-texts.

So, what do the “true” followers of Marx and, therefore, of Lenin want to follow the overthrow of the “state”?

[T]his machine was to be replaced by ‘the organization of the proletariat into the ruling class’, by ‘the conquest of democracy’.” (TSAR pg 37)

In other words, one ruling class is being replaced by another. Yes, that’s been said before by the foundation documents and by Lenin. It will be said many more times. Lenin was, if nothing else, astute and understood people needed to see, read, hear something said more than once to remember it. He also knew if you said it often enough and with enough fervor and by hitting on what the basic concerns of his audience was, he could manipulate them to his point of view. It wasn’t any different from what the world would see approximately 20 years later with Adolph Hitler and how he could whip up the German peoples.

Lenin turns the discussion back to the Paris Commune.

Thus the Commune appears to have replaced the smashed state machine ‘only’ by fuller democracy: the abolition of the standing army; the provision that all officials should be elected and subject to recall. But as a matter of fact this ‘only’ signifies a gigantic replacement of certain institutions by other institutions of an essentially different kind . . . It is still necessary to suppress the bourgeoisie and its resistance . . . But the organ of suppression is now the majority of the population, and not a minority as always occurred under slavery, serfdom and wage slavery. And as soon as it is the majority of the people itself which suppresses its oppressors, a ‘special force’ for suppression is no longer necessary! In this sense the state begins to wither away.” (TSAR, pp 38-39)

Now, I don’t know about you, but I’ve studied history and I’ve yet to see the evolution of a so-called socialist state to one where no “special force for suppression” is no longer necessary. In Russia, they’ve had 100 years to “suppress the bourgeoisie and its resistance”. If the socialist plan really worked, wouldn’t the proletariat majority be strong enough by now to do away with the “special force”? Sure, they might want to keep a standing army of volunteers to protect the state against invasion, but they shouldn’t need a police force or other means of suppression by now, should they? Hell, shouldn’t we be seeing some sign of erosion into a true people’s commune by now? Or is the erosion so slow it moves at less than glacial speeds?

Somehow, I think those who followed Lenin missed this part of his missive as well: “Complete electivity of all officials without exception; their subjection to recall at any time . . . .” (TSAR, pg 40) When is the last time we saw the senior leadership of Russia “recalled” without there being a putsch? Yet if we point this out to the Bernies of the world, they either say Russia isn’t a true socialist nation or they sidestep and focus only on social issues. What they refuse to admit, possibly even to themselves, is you can’t divorce the political from the social.

In every capitalist country where there is a peasantry (as in most capitalist countries), the vast majority of the peasants are oppressed by the government and yearn both for its overthrow and for ‘cheap’ government. This can be realized only by the proletariat; and in realizing it, the proletariat is simultaneously taking a step towards the socialist reconstruction of the state.” (TSAR pp 40-41)

So, the “peasantry” isn’t capable of realizing the overthrow of the government and must be led by the proletariat. Tell me how this isn’t classism in its most basic?

The way out of parliamentarianism is not, of course, the elimination of representative institutions and electivity but the conversion of the representative institutions from talking shops into ‘working’ institutions . . . Parliaments are only places where chattering goes on with the special purpose of fooling the ‘common people’ . . . In the Soviets, the ‘socialist’ gentlemen-cum-ministers are duping credulous rustics with phrase-mongering and resolutions.” (TSAR pg 42)

This is where we have to be careful. This is also very similar to the sentiment we saw arise in 2016, a sentiment the DNC and Clinton didn’t recognize or understand. Many voters felt there were too many talking heads in Washington and those talking heads had lost touch with the common people. They wanted someone who understood their needs and concerns. Trump and his team understood that and the electorate responded. That means the electorate will also respond to a liberal who says with sincerity, whether real or fake, what they want to hear. (Can anyone say “Obama”?)

There can be no talk of eradicating the bureaucracy at once, everywhere and completely. That is utopia. But to smash the old bureaucratic machine at once and to begin immediately to construct a new one that facilitates the gradual eradication of all bureaucracy: this is not utopia, this is the experience of the Commune, this is the direct, immediate task of the revolutionary proletariat.” (TSAR, pg 44)

This is the trap laid first by Marx and Engels and then by Lenin. The carrot of smashing the status quo of a government is dangled before the discontented and the disenfranchised. But they aren’t allowed to look behind the curtain to see that nothing has really changed. All those clamoring for revolution have done is replace one so-called oppressive government with another, one that will be even more oppressive in order to hold onto power. Remember, despite the claims that everything will be placed in the hands of the people, that doesn’t happen until the “erosion”. There is still an army and police to repress the bourgeois and those who won’t accede to the new regime. So how is this better?

Lest we forget one of the main reasons for Lenin writing The State and Revolution, he reminds us with this quote: “Certainly no opponents of the advice of Engels and Marx will be found among the Bolsheviks.” (TSAR, pg 59) Then, as is his want, he goes on to show how others are not true proponents of their writings, either forgetting or perverting the meaning of “true socialism”.

What we have to remember is much of what the socialists today espouse are the feel-good issues: universal healthcare, free education, living wages, etc. On the surface, those are all great ideas and something most of us could get behind. It is only when we peel back the layers and start asking questions like, “How are they going to be paid for if we aren’t writing the check?” that things get sticky. Unfortunately, the “true believers” don’t ask those questions or don’t consider the consequences of saying the government will pay for it.

After all, who pays for the government? If we leave healthcare in the government’s hands, what happens when we have a shutdown? What happens if we get into a budget crunch and funds have to be cut for healthcare? I know the answer and so do you but the true believers refuse to admit it. They refuse to look at the waiting lists for treatment so many countries with socialized medicine have and the number of people who suffer complications or – worse – who die as a result.

It is up to us to ask those hard questions. It is up to us to demand answers, not just from the government but from those trying to ram these changes down our throats. The first step in doing so is to understand their political philosophy better than they do. The second step is to do what the Democrats don’t want: it is to let our voices be heard loud and long and hard. It is to become active in politics on all levels. It is to keep our eyes and ears open and not go silently into the night. This is the time to stand tall and be heard, before we lose the chance forever.

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3 Comments
  • Very interesting series. I think Lenin correctly understands Marx; there are two versions of communism. One is for popular consumption, and holds that once the “right” system is in place all the problems of “the people” will be solved. The other is for the insiders, and it is all about how once the “right” system is in place *we* get to rule. “Two-versions” seems common to all forms of socialism.

    Socialists see the world and especially the economic as a zero sum game. They cannot get it into their heads the idea that economic activity in the free market is mutually beneficial, that it makes all Artie’s better off and thus creates wealth. They focus entirely on zero-sum redistribution.

    Also, there’s a more fundamental critique of socialist production than the “what if govt can’t pay for free stuff” redistribution argument: without a free market for factors of production, i.e. capital markets, govt planners will have no ability to determine whether they are creating or destroying wealth, they’ll be shooting in the dark when it comes to “rationally planning,” and the result will be chaos. See Mises and Hayek on this, and Venezuela for an illustration.

  • P.S. There are some rather odd auto-incorrections in the above, e.g. I’m sure Arties are better off in the free market, but I wrote “parties.” Also the “we” in “we get to rule” refers to the socialist insiders, of course.

  • GWB says:

    If the socialist plan really worked, wouldn’t the proletariat majority be strong enough by now to do away with the “special force”?
    You are forgetting the constant supply of foreign-backed wreckers and kulaks! We have to get rid of them before the proletariat can be strong enough!

    Yet if we point this out to the Bernies of the world…
    Oh, I don’t know. I think they fully support the ability to recall politicians that don’t support the will of the people. (As long as “the people” is defined as “my backers”.)

    In every capitalist country where there is a peasantry (as in most capitalist countries)
    Remember that I keep hammering on not using the word “capitalist” to describe our mostly free market? This is why – “capitalism” assumes a class-based society, with remnants (at least) of feudalism. We really shouldn’t use it to describe our ‘system’.

    Parliaments are only places where chattering goes on with the special purpose of fooling the ‘common people’
    Huh. A spot where I agree with Lenin. Who’da thunk it? (Of course, his answer is wrong – going as it does to a more “efficient” gov’t, rather than to leave-me-the-hell-alone.)

    So, the “peasantry” isn’t capable of realizing the overthrow of the government and must be led by the proletariat.
    You know, there actually is a lot that Lenin gets almost right in the analysis. It’s true that a grotesquely poor and uneducated rabble is very unlikely to rise up in revolution without being led. The poverty keeps them working to survive, with no time for protests and mob attacks on gov’t. The lack of education keeps them from understanding things like rights, gov’t (especially beyond “feed me and crush my neighbor because he has more than me”), and strategy.
    Ironically (or not), the progressives like Sanders have been working for a century to twist our education system so that it can produce a giant peasant class. Which can then be led in revolution.

    Of course, “almost getting right” in the analysis doesn’t get you the right answer. It’s also a form of lying – using just enough truth to get your audience nodding their heads in the vertical plane.

    That means the electorate will also respond to a liberal who says with sincerity, whether real or fake, what they want to hear.
    Yep. Especially if you use the education system to turn them into ignorant peasants, first.

    That is utopia.
    Hah! Now that right there is funny.

    “How are they going to be paid for if we aren’t writing the check?”
    *Heretic*! Unbeliever!!! You are not of the body!
    (Ooh, sorry, slipped from one fantastical, fanatical death cult into a different one for a moment. [Kudos if folks other than Amanda get that reference.])

    I know the answer and so do you
    Venezuela
    ‘nough said.

    Of the steps to counter this, you missed an important one: educate our fellow citizens in freedom, property rights, basic economics, and morality. Without doing that, entropy and the dogged determination of totalitarianism will drag us under, no matter how mighty our forces or how just our cause.

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