Strategy for Revolution in 21st Century
Engels: Violence and Origins of State, 1884 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


In his important work, The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State, Engels presented a convincing argument that, although the state did not invent war, from its very beginning the state has been associated intrinsically with the violence of slavery and class oppression.

Engels describes the origin of the state in his chapter on Barbarism and Civilization: society "by all its economic conditions of life had been forced to split itself into freemen and slaves, into the exploiting rich and the exploited poor; a society which not only could never again reconcile these contradictions, but was compelled always to intensify them. Such a society could only exist either in the continuous open fight of these classes against one another, or else under the rule of a third power, which, apparently standing above the warring classes, suppressed their open conflict and allowed the class struggle to be fought out at most in the economic field, in so-called legal form. The gentile constitution was finished. It had been shattered by the division of labor and its result, the cleavage of society into classes. It was replaced by the state."

The state required institutions of violence, both an army and a police. Engels illustrates this in terms of ancient Greece: "The second distinguishing characteristic [of the state] is the institution of a public force which is no longer immediately identical with the people's own organization of themselves as an armed power. This special public force is needed because a self-acting armed organization of the people has become impossible since their cleavage into classes. The slaves also belong to the population: as against the 365,000 slaves, the 90,000 Athenian citizens constitute only a privileged class. The people's army of the Athenian democracy confronted the slaves as an aristocratic public force, and kept them in check; but to keep the citizens in check as well, a police-force was needed, as described above. This public force exists in every state; it consists not merely of armed men, but also of material appendages, prisons and coercive institutions of all kinds..."

Where did the slaves come from? As Engels says, they came from war: "It was now desirable to bring in new labor forces. War provided them; prisoners of war were turned into slaves."

War becomes the business of the state. Engels explains that "war, formerly waged only in revenge for injuries or to extend territory that had grown too small, is now waged simply for plunder and becomes a regular industry. Not without reason the bristling battlements stand menacingly about the new fortified towns; in the moat at their foot yawns the grave of the gentile constitution, and already they rear their towers into civilization."

The leaders of war become the leaders of the state: As Engels describes, "The military leader of the people ... becomes an indispensable, permanent official. The assembly of the people takes form, wherever it did not already exist. Military leader, council, assembly of the people are the organs of gentile society developed into military democracy - military, since war and organization for war have now become regular functions of national life ... The wars of plunder increase the power of the supreme military leader and the subordinate commanders; the customary election of their successors from the same families is gradually transformed, especially after the introduction of father-right, into a right of hereditary succession, first tolerated, then claimed, finally usurped"

The state's monopoly of violence continues to the present day although slavery has given way to feudalism and then to capitalism. As Engels says, "As the state arose from the need to keep class antagonisms in check, but also arose in the thick of the fight between the classes, it is normally the state of the most powerful, economically ruling class, which by its means becomes also the politically ruling class, and so acquires new means of holding down and exploiting the oppressed class. The ancient state was, above all, the state of the slave-owners for holding down the slaves, just as the feudal state was the organ of the nobility for holding down the peasant serfs and bondsmen, and the modern representative state is the instrument for exploiting wage-labor by capital."

To put it simply, throughout history and up until the present day, the culture of the state has been the culture of war. Although Engels is not given proper credit, his theory of the origin of the state is confirmed by modern scholars. See, for example, A Theory of the Origin of the State, by Robert L. Carneiro, Science 169: 733-738, 1970.

Marx and Engels believed that capitalism would be replaced by socialism throughout the world, and once that happened, there would be no further need for the culture of war, and the state would wither away. As Engels put it in his book "Socialism, Utopian and Scientific, after the victory of socialism "a special repressive force, the state, is no longer necessary ... State interference in social relations becomes, in one domain after another, superfluous, and then dies out of itself; the government of persons is replaced by the administration of things, and by the conduct of processes of production. The state is not 'abolished'. It dies out."

However, attempts in the 20th Century to replace capitalism resulted in a socialist culture of war which did not succeed, and hence we need a new strategy for the 21st Century.

To take part in a discussion about this page, go to the Forum on Writings of Friedrich Engels 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