Δημοσιεύω εδώ στα αγγλικά απόσπασμα από υπό επεξεργασία κείμενό μου για τη σχέση διανοουμένων και κράτους, το οποίο αφορά άμεσα τα αποσπάσματα που ανήρτησα από το "Κράτος και επανάσταση" του V.I. Lenin εδώ. Σκοπός της δημοσίευσης είναι η συζήτηση πάνω στο κείμενό μου, κριτικές, προτάσεις περαιτέρω επεξεργασίας, κλπ. Εκτιμώ την μη αναδημοσίευση του αποσπάσματος και τη μη χρήση του σε επιστημονική έρευνα πριν την δημοσίευσή του χωρίς την άδειά μου.
The 19th-century passage from Hegel’s speculative-idealist conception of the state-form to Marx and Engels’s originally qualified and later absolute hostility towards it marks a first world-historical cycle of the relationship between intellectuals and the state, which can only be said to reach its terminus with Lenin’s The State and Revolution. This work, the most thorough Marxist treatment of the question of the state since Marx began delving into the question in 1843-44, was “interrupted”, as we know, by the October revolution itself, much to its author’s delight[i]: the “state revolutionary”—and Lenin is the exemplary embodiment of that subject position—is the anti-statist revolutionary intellectual cum revolutionary statesman[ii]. In exchanging “grey theory” for the “eternal green” of actual life[iii], he transforms theoretical reflection into a practical, objective rupture so momentous as to interrupt—in more ways than one—the intellectual tasks of the work itself. Arguably, such rupture or interruption is not simply something that happens to the work from the outside, through the activities of its author in the turbulent period from the failed July uprising to the world-historical October storming of the winter palace.[iv] It is something internal to the work, where the attempt to faithfully build on all that Marx and Engels had to say on the subject of the state leads in fact both to a series of unresolved internal contradictions and to a number of fresh and historically unprecedented insights into the problems the state-form presents from a revolutionary perspective. Hence, Lenin initially echoes Engels in describing the proletarian revolution as something that puts “an end to the state…as a state”, only to then distinguish between the “bourgeois” and the “proletarian state” as particular incarnations of an implicitly more general state-form[v]. He describes the proletarian state as a “semi-state” (i.e, a form of the state in which important aspects of the state-form have been destroyed), only to quickly refer to this reduced form as “the state in general”.[vi] He argues that “every state is a ‘special repressive force’ for the suppression of the oppressed class”, thus suggesting that revolution entails the displacement of the state as agent of bourgeois repression by a symmetrical “‘special repressive force’ for the suppression of the bourgeoisie”[vii], only to then insist (on account of the Commune, specifically) that the two forces are not at all symmetrical. By chapter III, the idea will rather have become that the proletarian state is not “a special force for the suppression of a given class” but a qualitatively altered “general force of the majority of the people”; and that it is precisely the end to the need for a “‘special force’ for suppression” which constitutes the precondition for the immediate “withering away” of the state under the auspices of proletarian revolution.[viii] The “proletarian state”, which had earlier (in chapter I) been described as both a “semi-state” and “the state in general” is now “no longer really a state”[ix] at all.
But if such instabilities indicate a measure of uncertainty in Lenin’s own understanding of the role, extent and nature of repression in the projected proletarian state, the customary anti-statist doctrine (according to which the state is a mere “organ for the oppression of one class by another”[x]) also comes into question in the course of Lenin’s attempt at sustained doctrinal elaboration. Originally, Lenin appears to draw from his precursors the most rigorous and stringent consequences as regards the question of what is to be done with “the state machine” after the revolution: the “chief and fundamental thesis in the Marxian doctrine of the state”, he insists, is that this machine “must be smashed, broken” rather than “perfected”[xi]. This, he argues in several sections of the pamphlet, is precisely what defines the irreconcilable chasm between revolutionary Marxism and Kautskyite Social Democracy, which opportunistically wishes to simply transfer the “machine” from the hands of the exploiting minority to those of the majority, as if revolution did not require a fundamental change in the nature of the state-form.[xii] Yet Lenin also suggests that “smash[ing] the bureaucratic machine of the modern state” is not identical with destroying the state as a “mechanism of social management”, which would be “capable of being wielded by the united workers themselves”.[xiii] Clearly, the “state” here—or rather, that remnant or residue of the bourgeois state which Lenin argues is transferable and must be transferred to proletarian hands—is not at all understood as an instrument of class violence or coercive force. It is, on the contrary, taken as a non-political or perhaps post-political component of the bourgeois state, a function of pure, depoliticized administration that can and must survive under proletarian rule[xiv], at least up to that speculative historical point when the transformation of everyone into a “bureaucrat” will have deprived the word of any residually baleful meaning.[xv]
The split between two antagonistic definitions of the state—one of which continues to designate it as armed, “organized force”[xvi] of repression, while the other extracts from it a more or less “non-political”, “administrative” component—comes fully into the foreground in Lenin’s discussion of the “housing question” and of the issue of bourgeois right during an anticipated socialist transition to communism. In the former case, Lenin suggests that as mundane a socialist measure as “[t]he letting of houses that belong to the whole people to separate families” does call for “a certain form of state”, but adds that such a form is not necessarily identical with “a special military and bureaucratic apparatus”[xvii]. In the latter, he clearly differentiates between the directly repressive functions of the proletarian state, which are expected to gradually “wither away” even within the socialist stage, and the far more intractable nature of the statist logic of bourgeois right—in other words, of relatively abstract and formal equality—as a dimension which effectively reproduces the need for a state for as long as the Marxian imperative “from each according to their ability, to each according to their needs” cannot be genuinely and thoroughly attained:
Hence, the first phase of communism cannot produce justice and equality; differences, and unjust differences, in wealth will still exist […] if we are not to fall into utopianism, we cannot imagine that, having overthrown capitalism, people will at once learn to work for society without any standard of right […] And there is as yet no other standard than that of ‘bourgeois right.’ To this extent, therefore, there is still need for a state, which, while safeguarding the public ownership of the means of production, would safeguard the equality of labor and equality in the distribution of products. The state withers away in so far as there are no longer any capitalists, any classes, and consequently, no class can be suppressed. But the state has not yet completely withered away, since there still remains the protection of ‘bourgeois right’ which sanctifies actual inequality. […] Of course, bourgeois right in regard to distribution of articles of consumption inevitably presupposes the existence of the bourgeois state, for right is nothing without an apparatus capable of enforcing the observance of the standards of right. Consequently, for a certain time not only bourgeois right, but even the bourgeois state remains under communism, without the bourgeoisie![xviii]
The “proletarian state” as a trimmed-down, withered version of the bourgeois state (“semi-state”), as a perfected, genuinely democratic version of the state principle (“the state in general”), as a mere semblance or virtual equivalent of the state (“no longer really a state”); the state-form as a parasitical “machine”, “tool” or “instrument” of class oppression that must be “smashed”, torn to pieces, rendered utterly inoperative, as a “necessary” but “transitory” “apparatus […] for suppression”[xix], as a non-political, “technical” and basically innocuous means of administering goods or collecting rent that must needs perpetuate the rule of bourgeois right until some future point when the antagonisms between mental and physical labor, administrators and administered, and differentially equipped and situated individuals will have vanished, and the state will have dissolved into “habit”[xx]; the character of the proletarian state’s repression as antagonistically “special” and as “general” enough as to practically dissolve into thin air; the final abolition of the state as both the earnest “ultimate aim”[xxi] of revolutionary politics and as a speculative affair which it “has never entered the head of any Socialist to ‘promise’”[xxii]: this is hardly the “monolithic” conception of the state Lenin was to be impugned with in later years. What we have instead, in this final, most historically consequential and most systematic exploration of the classical Marxist phase of state theorizing is a compendium of conceptual tensions and slippages; and these are not reducible either to the assumed difference between the bourgeois and the revolutionary state, or to the different “stages” of post-revolutionary state-form. Subsequent Soviet history, from the Russian Civil War to the economico-political shift in direction marked by Lenin’s own New Economic Policy[xxiii], and to Stalin’s seemingly counter-intuitive declaration of an “end” to the dictatorship of the proletariat in the very year of the beginning of state terror and the “Great Purge” [xxiv] would only compound the aporias Lenin wrestled with, preparing the ground for a second phase in the complex relationship between intellectuals and the state, this time overwhelmingly focused on the absence of revolutionary prospects and the entrenchment of parliamentary democracy in conditions of advanced capitalism that defined the “West”.
[i] See “Postscript” to V.I. Lenin, The State and Revolution, Marxists Internet Archive, http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1917/staterev/postscpt.htm
[ii] See Alain Badiou, Logics of Worlds, trans. Alberto Toscano (London and New York: Continuum, 2009), 521: “In effect, what constitutes the trans-worldly subjectivity of the figure of the state revolutionary is indeed the fact that it tries to enact the separation between the state and revolutionary politics, with the added tension that it tries to do so from within state power. Consequently, the figure in question only exists if we presuppose this separation.”
[iii]See V.I. Lenin, “Letters on Tactics”, http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1917/apr/x01.htm. Lenin’s reference is to Mephistopheles’ words in Goethe’s Faust.
[iv] The circumstances of the composition of the State and Revolution may have contributed to some degree to its internal fractures: most of it was written early in 1917, while Lenin was in exile in Switzerland. The writing was interrupted by Lenin’s return to Russia, and finished during the summer of 1917. It was published in August of that year, a month after the failed Bolshevik uprising against Kerensky’s Provisional Government; and two months before the October revolution.
[v] V.I. Lenin, “The State and Revolution”, in Essential Works of Lenin: “What is to Be Done?” and Other Writings, ed. Henry M. Christman (New York: Dover, 1987), 281-82.
[vi] Ibid., 282, 285.
[vii] Ibid., 283, 282.
[viii] Ibid., 301-2; and see 320, 339-40.
[ix] Ibid., 301.
[x] Ibid., 274.
[xi] Ibid., 290.
[xii] See ibid., 290, 297, 302-3, 310, 351-7, 358, 360, 362-4. This is also the central contention of Lucio Coletti’s important 1967 essay “Lenin’s State and Revolution”, in From Rousseau to Lenin: Studies in Ideology and Society, trans. John Merrington and Judith White (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1974), 219-227.
[xiii] See Lenin, State and Revolution, 307-8.
[xiv]Ibid., 317-18. Lenin refers to Engels’s 1872-4 “On Authority” (http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1872/10/authority.htm) to raise the question of the “transformation of public functions from political functions into simple functions of administration”, suggesting that “at a certain stage of its withering away the moribund state can be called a non-political state.”
[xv] See Lenin, State and Revolution, 355; and 362: “socialism will […] create conditions for the majority of the population that will enable everybody, without exception, to perform ‘state functions,’ and this will lead to the complete withering away of the state in general”.
[xvi] Ibid., 316.
[xvii] Ibid., 314.
[xviii] Ibid., 341-3, 346.
[xix] Ibid., 339. But notice the paradoxicality of the example Lenin gives when he tries to explain the qualitative transformation of state repression when this is exercised on behalf of the majority: “no special machine, no special apparatus of repression is needed for this [repression of “individual persons”, after the abolition of classes]: this will be done by the armed people itself, as simply and as readily as any crowd of civilized people, even in modern society, parts two people who are fighting” (339-40). Comparing the repression of transgressive individuals by “the armed people” with getting between “two people who are fighting” is a clearly misleading analogy: the latter instance concerns pacific mediation between two belligerent parties, the former concerns the collective exercise of violence or the threat of violence on an individual body. Still, it is worth reflecting on the similarities between this puzzling comparison and Walter Benjamin’s comparison, in 1921, of the “pure means” of “nonviolent resolution of conflict” with the “pure means” of the proletarian general strike as prototype of revolutionary violence. See “Critique of Violence”, trans. Edmund Jephcott, in Walter Benjamin, Selected Writings, Vol. 1, 1913-1926, ed. Marcus Bullock and Michael W. Jennings (Cambridge, MA: Belknap/Harvard University Press, 1996), 244-5.
[xx] See ibid., 333, 338, 349. In “O Lenin kai to telos tēs vias” [“Lenin and the End of Violence”], I have spoken of the peculiarities and paradoxes involved in Lenin’s conception of “habit”, which is at once speculative and futural and yet improbably backward-gazing, even naively nostalgic. Effectively, Lenin’s “habit” is an attempt to proffer a logical solution to the intractable problem of how to imagine a non-violent and non-repressive end to the necessary violence of the proletarian state. See Antonis Balasopoulos, To vivlio tōn micron syllogismōn [The Book of Short Reflections] (Athens: Astra, 2011), 87-92.
[xxi] Lenin, State and Revolution, 333.
[xxii] Ibid., 344. Shortly after stating that the arrival of conditions permitting the final abolition of the state have in fact never been promised, Lenin adds with vehemence: “Until the ‘higher’ phase of communism arrives, the Socialists demand the strictest control, by society and by the state, of the amount of labor and the amount of consumption” (345). It is difficult to see how such a state could be even of the more modest “semi-state” or partially withered state variety he elsewhere posits as possible from the very first day of the revolution.
[xxiii] See Moshe Lewin, Lenin’s Last Struggle, trans. A.M. Sheridan Smith (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2005), xxix, 16-9, 21-9; and E.H. Carr, The Bolshevik Revolution 1917-1923, Volume 2 (New York and London: Norton, 1985), 269-79.
[xxiv] See Etienne Balibar, On the Dictatorship of the Proletariat, trans. Grahame Lock (London: New Left Books, 1977), 49-55.