25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Correcting an oversight ....
V. I. Lenin wrote this book in 1917, while he was hiding from the Russian government. Lenin pointed out that "The question of the relation of the state to the social revolution, and of the social revolution to the state, like the question of revolution generally, was given very little attention by the leading theoreticians and publicists of the Second International...
Published on December 23, 2004 by M. B. Alcat
14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars An important book, a questionable translator.
_State and Revolution_ is a complicated book in the annals of Marxist thinking. Lenin assigns above all a class role to the State, and therefore ascertains correctly the necessity of a socialist state assuming a proletarian viewpoint. At the same time, Lenin's socialist state lacks a truly political dimension, as it remains, above all, a means for strictly administrative...
Published on January 17, 2001 by C. E. R. Mendonça
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Correcting an oversight ....,
V. I. Lenin wrote this book in 1917, while he was hiding from the Russian government. Lenin pointed out that "The question of the relation of the state to the social revolution, and of the social revolution to the state, like the question of revolution generally, was given very little attention by the leading theoreticians and publicists of the Second International (1889-1914)". He wanted to correct that oversight, and that is probably the main reason why he wrote this book.
"The State and revolution" is a very short book, well structured and not difficult to read at all. Initially this pamphlet was going to have seven chapters, but Lenin didn't conclude the seventh, due to the outbreak of the Russian revolution. In the postscript to the first edition he explains that, saying that due to the reasons already explained the conclusion of the seventh chapters would have to be put off for quite a long time, but that all the same "It is more pleasant and useful to go through the `experience of revolution' than to write about it".
The main idea in "The State and revolution" is that the State is a product of the irreconcilability of class antagonisms, and an instrument for the exploitation of the oppressed class (a "special coercive force" that rules through violence). The State of the bourgeoisie will disappear, but only through a revolution that will take the people to the dictatorship of the proletariat. The proletariat (the working class) will become then the ruling class, "capable of crushing the inevitable and desperate resistance of the bourgeoisie, and of organizing all the working and exploited people for the new economic system. The proletariat needs state power, a centralized organization of force, an organization of violence, both to crush the resistance of the exploiters and to lead the enormous mass of the population -the peasants, the petty bourgeoisie, and semi-proletarians- in the work of organizing a socialist economy."
The dictatorship of the proletariat will be only a first stage in the path to Communism ("Then the door will be thrown wide open for the transition from the first phase of communist society to its higher phase, and with it to the complete withering away of the state"). According to Lenin, the necessity of systematically imbuing the masses with the idea of the necessity of violent revolution lies at the root of the entire theory of Marx and Engels. All throughout this book, Lenin cites and examines Marx and Engels' writings, in order to explain and support his own point of view.
The importance of Marxism for nowadays world has diminished enormously, but I advice you to read this book nonetheless. It is certainly not a grueling task, and it will allow you to understand better some notions that many Marxist leaders believed with all their hearts. Ideas drive men, and men make history. "The State and revolution" will help you to get acquainted with some of those ideas, and that is not a small feat.
23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Intelligent and Challenging,
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This is one of books most interesting and challenging books I've ever read. It is enjoyable and the writing style is wonderful. However, the ideas are what I most enjoyed. Whether you agree or disagree with Lenin, this book is an important marker in modern political analysis. Personally, I loved it and find myself returning to it often for clarity and inspiration.
25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent description on the role of the state,
This is an excellent book on the role of the state after a revolution, how it will wither away, and what a society should look like ( or try to mould itself into ) after the revolution. Lenin, drawing on the works of Marx and Engels extensively, refutes many claims by both the Anarchists and opportunists on the role of the state, and corrects many common errors believed about the Marxist road to Socialism. This is a thoroughly informative read. I recommend those wondering how a Communist society would emerge after a revolution to get this book; It will open your eyes widely.
27 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Revolutionary Classic,
I believe this is the best, concise revolutionary analysis of the role of the State ever written.
I find it very annoying that here in the US, while many students may cursorily read the Communist Manifesto in school, I have never once met ANYONE in my life who has read the basic works of Lenin except for avowed Marxists (and only a minority of these)....and being a Communist myself, I have asked several students, and often looked through university bookstores to see if any poli-sci or history professors would break the "no Lenin allowed" rule.
Consequently, there are many people on the "left" who pretend to understand Marx and/or Marxism, but still make the exact same errors to which Lenin here responded over 80 years ago.
For example, someone just this week argued to me than Lenin was "not a real Marxist" (!!!) because he "introduced" the notion of "dictatorship of the proletariat", which was "alien" to Marx (hint: read Chapter 4 of Marx's Critique of the Gotha Programme for just one of many passages which prove this notion
totally false). State and Revolution gives many more examples of extensive quotes from Marx & Engels. One of the greates merits of S&R is that it restores the revolutionary essence to Marx, which was obscured and watered-down by the Social Democrat reformists of the 2nd International led by Karl Kautsky. Incidentally, the concept of the "dictatorship of the proletariat" has been much distorted by capitalist demagogues and anti-communist "leftists" into something completely alien to its original meaning.
To all "Left academics" and others, don't assume (or pretend) you know anything about Marx or Lenin if you've never read them...If you have to be an academic "armchair radical", at least try to get the basic facts right instead of misrepresenting what they stood for...There's no shame in not having read Lenin (join the vast majority), but it's disgusting to just pass off what you've heard about Lenin from "bourgie" intellectuals as the truth (when the truth is those intellectuals never read Lenin either most likely).
There are not a few pseudo-Marxist fakers in academia, who do more damage to popular revolutionary understanding (in the name of Marxism) than do the outright enemies of socialism. NO WONDER these "Left" anti-communist professors don't assign a book like State and Revolution, they're still trying to pass off the same lies and distortions about revolutionary Marxism that Lenin and other genuine revolutionaries tear to shreds in works like S&R.
I dedicate State and Revolution to all the "Marxian" fakers who still try to paint Marx as a mere liberal humanist reformer, and strip him of his revolutionary essence.
14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars An important book, a questionable translator.,
_State and Revolution_ is a complicated book in the annals of Marxist thinking. Lenin assigns above all a class role to the State, and therefore ascertains correctly the necessity of a socialist state assuming a proletarian viewpoint. At the same time, Lenin's socialist state lacks a truly political dimension, as it remains, above all, a means for strictly administrative decision-making. Something that would gravely hamper the subsequent understanding of the political character of a future socialist state, specially when you think that this book was written while Lenin hid from the Kerensky government, that's to say just before the October Revolution. Neverthless, the problems put by the book have enormous present value. Therefore it must be taken as entirely questionable the decision to choose as translator an anti-communist like Service, something that would be quite like choosing a neo-stalinist to translate Trotsky's "Revolution Betrayed".
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic in Marxist theory,
This review is from: State and Revolution (Paperback)
In general I find Lenin easier to read than Marx. This, in my mind, is the main value I see in State and Revolution. Lenin who was 50 plus years Marx's junior significantly elaborated and augmented Marx's analysis of capitalism, class struggle and the workers' revolution they hoped would do away with both. With 50 more years experience than Marx with the failures of "democratic socialism," Lenin can argue more coherently that only a workers' revolution will end capitalism and class society. He also offers a more detailed analysis of the workers' state that is to replace the shattered capitalist state and his view of the economic and political processes by which this state will "wither away" to become true communism.
The State and Revolution also includes a discussion of the 1848 French civil war (which was hoped to end class society altogether where the 1789 revolution had failed to do this) and the successes and failures of the 1871 Paris commune. It also includes a scathing attack on anarchists who seek to destroy the state without proposing any form of social organization to replace it. Lenin quotes Marx in expressing his concern that simply destroying the state political apparatus wouldn't be adequate - that members of the capitalist class would be certain to launch a counter-revolution - thus the need for the workers to remain organized and armed to protect their revolution.
Much of the book attacks specific individuals by name, who Lenin accuses of deviating from true Marxism. For the most part these people have been lost to history. However after 30 years of sitting in political meanings where people can argue for three hours without agreeing on a vision or statement of purpose, I find it reassuring the Lenin himself dealt with these petty squabbles 100 years ago.
By Dr Stuart Jeanne Bramhall, author of THE MOST REVOLUTIONARY ACT: MEMOIR OF AN AMERICAN REFUGEE
4.0 out of 5 stars Recommended,
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I think it was de Tocqueville who observed that revolutions do not, as a rule, reverse the trends in evidence before the revolution, but rather intensify them. So in France a revolution against the centralized bourbon monarchy resulted in an even more centralized national republic, to say nothing of centralization under the empire that followed it. Similarly, in Russia the overthrow of the centralized autocratacy of the czar did not result in the establishment of anything like a democratic or a decentralized society, but rather in the even more autocratic and the even more centralized rule of the Bolshevik party, and ultimately of the secretary general of the party. In both of these countries, the revolution did not abrogate, but rather confirmed, the tendencies of the governments they displaced. And in both, those tendencies are still in evidence today.
In the case of The State and Revolution, the contrast between the principles elaborated upon in the text, and the subsequent behavior of the author and his confederates once in power, seems particularly glaring. In this text Lenin argues for a state that will be an organization of the armed proletariat. Its guiding principles are democratic centralism and a conditional egalitarianism. More specifically, all office holders are to be elected, all office holders are to be subject to instant recall by the electorate, and none of them are to receive wages in excess of those collected by a competent tradesmen. Certain inequalities of pay and work will persist, since people have different needs and different abilities, but the huge chasms that separate the prosperous burgher from the impoverished prole are to be instantly abolished.
Now, the first thing that one has to say about this program is that it was not enacted, in part or in full. For apologists of the regime this is because the pressures of the revolution and of the subsequent war did not permit it. Personally I find this explanation unconvincing. As Lenin points out, the Paris Commune immediately put this program into force. How, then, can anyone say that it was objectively impossible for the Bolsheviks to do so? Will anyone seriously maintain that the Bolsheviks were under greater pressure in 1917-22, than the communards were in 1871? It seems clear to me that they were not. Further, Lenin is clearly aware that the revolution will encounter armed resistance. It is, indeed, an armed movement of the people for the forcible seizure of the state, which will then be turned against the bourgeois for the purpose of forcefully expropriating their property. Resistance, then, is to be expected – so how can anyone say that he did not envision the chaotic conditions of the revolution and of the civil war? At the very least, I think an honest person will have to admit that the theory was inadequate to the facts it purported to explain.
On the opposite extreme, enemies of the regime have offered the explanation that Lenin was a cynic and an opportunist, that he never believed a word of his democratic and egalitarian rhetoric, and that it was simply a device with which to dupe the common people into handing power to the Bolsheviks. I do not find this explanation convincing either. Lenin strikes me as an utterly convinced proselyte – as someone who does not simply believe in what they are saying, but who knows in his bones that he is right, and who regards it as an ethical duty to oppose, refute, ridicule, and if possible extirpate contrary points of view. That’s just a sense I get of the author’s personality – I think in another age he might have been a monk or a desert prophet. But he was not, in any case, a cynic.
I think the simplest explanation for the contrast between his professed principles and his actual behavior in power is more mundane. In the American political system, every four years we are subject to the same spectacle. The party out of power makes the strident pronouncements of principle, mercilessly indicts the policies of the party in power, and makes all kinds of extravagant promises about its own future behavior when put in power. The fact that they do not govern is what gives them this rhetorical freedom. Once confronted with the responsibilities of governing, they invariably find that they are not able to deliver on their program – some principles have to be compromised, others completely abrogated. Few if any promises are kept in full. This is what, I think, happened to the Bolshevik program. It might have been sincerely meant, but its democratic and egalitarian principles could not, in the end, be squared with either the autocratic temperament of its author or with the realities of governing a state as disorganized as Russia in the years 1917-24. Even under ideal circumstances, however, I doubt very much that it would have been realized. Lenin does not strike me as the kind of personality who would have submitted to ''instant recall by the electorate.''
At least for me, the real value of a work like this is not the endless diatribes against other socialists, or the statement of a program which was not, and arguably could not be, realized within the context of its own time and place. The real value of a work like this is the insight it gives into the temperament and environment of its author. Personally I enjoy Lenin’s style – in most places it's clear, direct, confrontational, and unencumbered with technical socialist bafflegab. There is very little hair-splitting or evasion in this text. The picture of the man that emerges is that of a true hardliner. Like a true fundamentalist he sees himself as having been given a sacred mission to rescue the original doctrine of the founder from the corrupting influence of opportunists, cynics, weak-willed compromisers, and in general of unworthies who have infiltrated the party. His task in The State and Revolution is, in part, to clarify the program of the Bolshevik party with respect to the state – but it is also to clear the money changers out of the temple.
These infiltrators of the movement are variously described as social chauvinists, as philistines, or as anti-authoritarianists. These terms of abuse carried fairly specific meanings in the context in which Lenin wrote. A social chauvinist is a socialist who supports the war effort – he is social because he claims to be a socialist, and a chauvinist because he has bought into the irrational prejudice of nationalism. In Lenin's view these people are not real socialists, because they have succumbed to nationalism, whereas Marx denounced nationalism as a device of class exploitation. They must, therefor, be counted among the infiltrators with which Lenin has to do battle. A philistine is someone who vulgarizes or misunderstands the doctrines of Marx. In application this means, more or less, everyone who disagrees with Lenin, because he considers himself the authentic interpreter of Marx. An anti-authoritarianist is an anarchist and a Utopian – i.e. someone who imagines that the state can be abolished without an armed struggle. Almost the entire content of the state and revolution is structured as a dialogue against these groups of ideological enemies.
It is indeed somewhat distressing to see how closely dependent Lenin is upon these interrelations. He is always either interpreting Marx, or arguing that others have misinterpreted those teachings, or else castigating others for not accepting them. He doesn't seem to have very much to say on his own account, and I think it’s fair to say that he was not, and probably did not consider himself to be, any great socialist theoretician. Lenin was fundamentally a man of action, not of thought – but owing to the nature of socialist culture and politics, anyone who wanted to wield influence within that movement had to represent themselves as an intellectual. Or, in other words, they had to write books containing grand theoretical statements. For Lenin the essential point to be made about the state and revolution is that the state is an instrument for the oppression of one class by another, that it is currently controlled by the bourgeois, and that it must be seized, by force, by the armed proletariat. The proletariat will then turn the instrument of oppression upon the bourgeois, which will begin the process of transformation toward a genuinely classless society. Since this society will have no classes, there will be no classes to oppress, and it will therefor have no need of a state. This is not to say that it will have no need of political organization – neither Lenin nor Marx argued that people would simply spontaneously do what they ought to do. The state, in this context, does not mean politics in general but the specific kind of bureaucratic, organized, centralized, repressive state which emerged in the 17th century. It had a beginning, it will have an end – as it was preceded by a different form of political organization, so it will be followed by one. The state is simply one of many different possible kinds of political organization, and it is this particular manifestation – not politics in general – which Marx and Lenin see as coming to an end in the long run. In the short run, however, the revolution will have to retain control of the state in order to accomplish the revolutionary task of the proletariat – to crush its class enemy and to appropriate the means of production. No one, then, should be under any illusion about the kind of society that Lenin envisioned. At its best it might have been more democratic and more egalitarian than it was under the czars, but it was not to be a utopia of peace and plenty. The revolution would not end the class struggle – it would merely advance it to the next stage.
A few other, generalized observations about the text;
One impression that I get reading socialist literature from the 19th century is that these people – and I would certainly include Lenin here – talked a good game about history, but that they didn't really know all that much about it. Their discussion always proceeded in the most general possible terms because that's all they knew. They couldn't discuss the nuts and bolts of history because they didn't usually have the time or the inclination to acquire that knowledge. What we really have in these texts is usually philosophy dressed up in the language of history - the genuinely historical matter is buried beneath a mountain of abstractions, and not central to the author’s intention in any case.
Lenin has an annoying habit of saying the people or society or the community, etc., will take such and such an action, when the context of his remarks makes it perfectly plain that what he really means is that the state and its representatives will take that action. Whether or not the state will be acting in the interests of the people etc. when it expropriates the land and factories of the bourgeois is really beside the point - it is in any case the state which is acting, and which subsequently disposes of the expropriated property. Lenin does not so much purposefully misrepresent this issue - he frankly owns it in many places - as he does confuse it, and surround it with muddled language. When the state acts under pretext of actualizing the class interests of the proletariat, that is not necessarily the same thing as acting on the actual interests of the proletariat. For Lenin, when the party claims to act in this way it does in fact act in this way. The possibility that its activities might not benefit the proletariat, even though they are intended to do so, does not seem to occur to him.
Lenin like many other 19th c. Socialists often speaks of the workers taking over or abolishing the state, the workers expropriating the property of the capitalists, the workers instituting such and such a policy. However experience ought to have made it sufficiently clear by now that it is not the workers, but leaders claiming to act on behalf of the workers, who have been the organizers and drivers of every socialist movement. The workers of themselves do not, have not, and cannot do anything. They are constitutionally passive - they cannot lead, they can only be led. The existence of a separate body of leaders claiming to act in their interests necessarily creates conflicts of interest between the two groups, and it is highly unlikely that, where such conflicts exist, the leaders will abrogate their own interests in favor of those of the workers. What we have in this case is not the end of class conflict, but a mere change in class antagonisms. Where in the bourgeois state the workers struggled against the capitalists, in the socialist state they struggle against the bureaucrats. There is not and cannot be an identity of interests. Anyone intelligent and ambitious enough to lead a working class movement automatically differentiates himself from the mass of the workers, who have neither the intelligence nor the ambition to lead anything. The workers cannot act in any but an uncoordinated, short lived and spontaneous manner - real leadership has and must come from outside.
Like Marx. Lenin probably derived his conception of the state as an vehicle for organized class repression from his personal experience of it, and not, as they both claimed, from a sober reflection of the evidence. These men lived in a condition of perpetual antagonism toward the state as a consequence of their political opinions. They were often outlaws, sometimes refugees, and always rebels. They can be forgiven for thinking of the state exclusively in terms of force because the only times they encountered the state was through police, courts, jails, etc. some of its more benign features were outside the scope of their lived experience and so predictably did not receive their due in the theories they spun about it.
I think revolution and the state is a worthwhile read for the light it sheds on Lenin's personality, thinking, and more broadly on the debates within the Marxist movement, and on the political aspirations of the people the Bolsheviks aspired to represent. It’s a good way for people to get their hands dirty, so to speak, in the history of the period, so I do recommend it for that purpose.
4.0 out of 5 stars Mainly Revolution,
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This review is from: The State and Revolution (CLASSIC, 20TH-CENTURY, PENGUIN) (Kindle Edition)
I purchased and read this book after reading the Communist Manifesto and Capital by Karl Marx. I was trying to get my head around the Marxist world view, since I basically found myself agreeing with with most of what I was reading. I've heard terrible things about Lenin and wanted to find out from the "horses mouth" exactly what he was up to. I found "State and Revolution" to be very informative as to what revolution is all about and also a lot of my questions about Marxism were answered.
I wold recommend this book for anyone who has questions about Marxism in practice, since Lenin was the leader of the first trully Marxist government.
5.0 out of 5 stars Dictatorship of the proletariat,
This review is from: State and Revolution (Paperback)
In an introductory college course on Marxism this book is the one most likely to be recommended after the "Communist Manifesto" and Engels' "Socialism: Utopian and Scientific". This is partly because it is very readable and partly because it deals with the state both before, during and after the revolution - whereas Marx showed little interest in during and after.
Like Marx, Lenin portrays the state in capitalist society as the oppressive forces of the bourgeoisie. This applies as much to democratic states as any other. And what of the "proletarian revolution" that is to topple the bourgeois state? Marx mentioned the phrase only twice in all his writings, including a reference in the Manifesto. It was left to others (notably Lenin) to enlarge on revolution and the transition to communism. Lenin, unlike Marx an active revolutionary, was more conscious of the problem of how a revolution can arise from the masses, particularly in a backward country such as his native Russia. His answer was to portray the communist party as "the vanguard of the proletariat" in planning an executing revolution. Equally he seized on Engels' comments on the proletariat seizing control of state institutions followed by a period in which the state "dies out" (or withers away), to develop the notion of an indefinite period of the "dictatorship of the proletariat" whereby the communist party would rule on behalf of the proletariat and progressively liquidate all remnants of the old bourgeois order.
It is during the period of the dictatorship of the proletariat (length not discussed) that the state finally disappears. In an important passage Lenin writes that there may be "excesses" by "individuals" but these can be dealt with by "the armed people itself, as simply and readily as any crowd of civilised people, even in modern society, parts two people who are fighting, or intervene to prevent a woman from being assaulted." But once exploitation of the masses is removed then "with the removal of the chief causes, excesses will begin to `wither away'." Thereafter, according to Lenin, all that is needed in a classless society is "book-keeping and control". When all workers have learned to do this then "from this moment the need for any government begins to vanish."
Lenin seems to be suggesting that these functions could be carried out by workers en masse. Engels, however, had specifically attacked the Anarchists for wishing to destroy all authority, arguing that people had to be in charge of running enterprises even after a revolution. At any rate Lenin shared with Marx and Engels a very optimistic view of human nature. What distinguished Lenin, and makes this book so important, is the role he gives to communist parties as a "vanguard of the proletariat" and the significance of a "dictatorship of the proletariat".
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "The Negation of the Negation",
This review is from: The State and Revolution (Hardcover)
V.I. Lenin's, "State and Revolution," proved a refreshing, well-deserved expose of a patently dated, dehumanising, capitalist socio-economic paradigm which--irrespective of its having been penned in 1917 (and foreshortened by Revolutionary outbreak!)--remains, inasmuch as the aforementioned paradigm persists to this very day, a relevant read (and from more than merely an historical perspective).
M. Lenin, succinctly and with precision in this but one-hundred page volume, reveals the present global paradigm for that which it de facto is: "capitalist slavery." Yet, desideratively, the author not only illustrates the imperative of destroying and eliminating an exploiting, enslaving socio-economic systematic but--further and positively--thereupon offers a viable replacement.
While by no means a tome, Lenin's work is dense with topical data. A few might be dismayed by the author's (a la Marx) occasional digressions constituting refutations of then current and competing communist or Social-Democratic, etc., theories (and their propagators): nonetheless, same-said--while but comprising a fraction of the work--are often interesting and enlightening in-and-of-themselves.
Respective of exposing a mystifying, emasculating bourgeois ideology, Lenin cuts to the chase in "Preface To First Edition" (August, 1917):
...the problem of elucidating to the masses what
they will have to do for their liberation from
the yoke of capitalism...
Lenin also, and rightly, describes as "...our first task to resuscitate the real teachings of Marx...," which comprises freeing same from interpretive misunderstanding and mendacity, adulteration, vulgarisation and the blunting and distortion of "their revolutionary edge." Of course, and in instructive fashion, Lenin dismantles generally "non-desiderative" phenomena inclusive of "opportunism" and "anarchism," while--in addition--smashing such nonsense as "philistinism" and "'reformist' stagnation."
Needless to say, Lenin's knowledge of Marx (and Engels) is solid, as he freely quotes telling passages from the renowned collaborators' texts. In recapitulation, most of V.I. Lenin's "State and Revolution" is (dismayingly) as germane presently as the day it was published. Lenin minces not words in bringing the capitalist paradigm to its theoretical knees, elucidating the concrete indispensability thereof considering same-said systematic's inherent pauperising, alienating, false-consciousness producing tendencies. Of course, and on the other side of the coin, a failure to expunge the capitalist socio-economic paradigm would preclude an inauguration of a de-alienated, human-, actualisational-promoting communist society. Bonjour.
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State and Revolution by Vladimir Ilyich Lenin (Paperback - September 4, 2009)
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