Strategy for Revolution in 21st Century
Lenin: The State and Revolution, 1917 Its relation to a Culture of Peace for the 21st Century

Sources

Marx and Engels:
Communist Manifesto

Marx:
Civil War in France

Marx:
Alienation

Marx:
Theory of History

Marx and Engels:
On Human Nature

Engels:
Anti-Dühring

Engels:
Violence and the Origin of the State

Engels:
Socialism: Utopian and Scientific

Marx, Engels, Lenin:
On Dialectics

Lenin:
What is to be done?

Lenin:
Imperialism

Lenin:
The State and Revolution

Lenin: War Communism

Lenin:
The Cultural Revolution

Lenin:
Left-Wing Communism

Lenin:
The American Revolutions

Lenin:
The French Revolutions

Lenin:
On Workers Control

Lenin:
On Religion

Lenin:
On the Arms Race

Trotsky:
Militarization of Labor

Luxemburg:
Russian Revolution

Zetkin:
The Women's Question

Mao:
Role of Communist Party

Mao:
On Violence

Mao:
On the Army

Mao:
On Women

Mao:
Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution

Mao and Fidel:
Fall of the American Empire

Guevara:
Man and Socialism in Cuba

Hall and Winston:
Fighting Racism

Fanon:
National Liberation and Culture

Cabral: National Liberation and Culture

Nkrumah: Neo-Colonialism


Lenin wrote the notes for The State and Revolution while still in hiding and finished it in August 1917 when the Russian Revolution was, in his words, "completing the first stage of its development." He had planned to finish it with an analysis of the Russian Revolution, but in a postscript, he says ". It is more pleasant and useful to go through the 'experience of revolution' than to write about it."

Lenin begins in the first chapter from the analysis of Engels, that the state was created at that moment of ancient history when class conflict became otherwise unmanageable. In order to maintain their power, the ruling classes assume a monopoly of violence: "This public power exists in every state; it consists not merely of armed men but also of material adjuncts, prisons, and institutions of coercion of all kinds ... A standing army and police are the chief instruments of state power. But how can it be otherwise?" In other words, from its very beginnings the state has been an institution of violence.

Throughout history, as Lenin says, the state has been "an instrument for the exploitation of the oppressed class." Usually the state is controlled by "the most powerful, economically dominant class, which, through the medium of the state, becomes also the politically dominant class, and thus acquires new means of holding down and exploiting the oppressed class. The ancient and feudal states were organs for the exploitation of the slaves and serfs; likewise, the modern representative state is an instrument of exploitation of wage-labor by capital."

The most efficient form of the capitalist state is by means of bourgeois [i.e. capitalist] democracy. "A democratic republic is the best possible political shell for capitalism, and, therefore, once capital has gained possession of this very best shell ... it establishes its power so securely, so firmly, that no change of persons, institutions or parties in the bourgeois-democratic republic can shake it. We must also note that Engels is most explicit in calling universal suffrage as well an instrument of bourgeois rule." From this it is evident that a truly socialist revolution can not be accomplished simply by winning an election within the framework of bourgeois [capitalist] democracy.

To make a socialist revolution, the workers must seize control of the state. As Lenin explains in chapter two, "The overthrow of the bourgeoisie [i.e. capitalist class] can be achieved only by the proletariat [i.e. working class] becoming 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."

Education is key. "By educating the workers' party, Marxism educates the vanguard of the proletariat, capable of assuming power and leading the whole people to socialism, of directing and organizing the new system, of being the teacher, the guide, the leader of all the working and exploited people in organizing their social life without the bourgeoisie and against the bourgeoisie."

Lenin holds up as a revolutionary model the actions of the Paris Commune as analyzed by Marx and Engels. In chapter three, Lenin agrees with Marx that the Commune proved "that the working class must break up, smash the "ready-made state machinery", and not confine itself merely to laying hold of it."

He quotes Marx on how the Paris Commune rejected the bourgeois model of parliamentary democracy. They established a new form of working class democracy and planned to extend it throughout France to develop a national unity behind the revolution. This, for Lenin, became a model for the soviets which were to provide a democratic base to the new state after the Russian Revolution.

Lenin fully agrees with Marx, whom he quotes in the beginning of chapter five, that immediately following the revolution, there is "a political transition period in which the state can be nothing but the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat." And time and again, he quotes Marx that the entire proletariat must be armed in order to protect against the inevitable capitalist counter-revolution.

How long should the dictatorship of the proletariat continue? At that time, Lenin and others still hoped that the world was on the verge of a global revolution that would sweep away the capitalist world, after which the dictatorship of the proletariat would no longer be needed to defend the revolution against a capitalist counterattack. But already, writing in 1916 in The Military Programme of the Proletarian Revolution Lenin realized that "socialism cannot achieve victory simultaneously in all countries. It will achieve victory first in one or several countries, while the others will for some time remain bourgeois or pre-bourgeois. This is bound to create not only friction, but a direct attempt on the part of the bourgeoisie of other countries to crush the socialist state's victorious proletariat."

A century has passed, and socialist initiatives remain surrounded and under attack by imperialism. Lenin's concerns remain timely. We must find ways to defend the revolutions of the 21st Century - ways that effectively block the violence of the counter-revolution - without falling into the trap of creating new socialist cultures of war.

To take part in a discussion about this page, go to the Forum on Writings of Vladimir Lenin on the Discussion Board:
discussion board

Issues

Revolutionary socialist culture of peace

Culture of War

Internal Culture of War

Culture of Peace

Education for nonviolence and democracy

Sustainable development for all

Human rights vs exploitation

Women's equality vs patriarchy

Democratic participation vs authori- tarianism

Tolerance and solidarity vs enemy images

Transparency vs secrecy

Disarmament vs armament

Revolutionary leadership

Revolutionary organization

Proletarian Interna- tionalism

National Liberation

Guerrilla Warfare

Terrorism

Agent Provocateurs

Communica- tion systems

Psychology for revolution- aries

Capitalist culture of war

Socialist culture of war

Winning Conflict by Nonviolence


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More Sources

South African
Peace Process

Soviet Union
Disarmament Proposals

Soviet Collapse

Slovo:
Has Socialism Failed?

Freire:
Pedagogy of the Oppressed

Fidel:
Ecology in Cuba

Fidel:
On Religion

Mandela:
Human Rights in South Africa

King
on Nonviolence

Gandhi
on Nonviolence

Gandhi
on Communism