A Response to Valentine Seebart’s “Anarchism and the Workers State”

Disclaimer: This is a response to a article and not a article itself and will not be posted in the article tab, everything stated in this is the opinion of the submitter and not of the magazine itself. Sincerely Chief Editor Robert Biester

By Kolya

This short text was meant as a response to an article titled “Anarchism and Workers’ State” published by the Promethean Magazine. I’d like to start off by presenting several positions that I found problematic while reading this article. In the introductory part, the author points out that the (bourgeois) state’s function is to prevent class conflict from turning into a class revolution, or as the author themselves put it:

“[…] to prevent the conflict of classes from spilling over into one class’s revolution against another.”

This is undoubtedly true, if we take it for granted that the aforementioned sentence was meant to be understood as a universal definition of one of the State’s main functions throughout history.

 The author, however, fails to precisely point out the fact that the state isn’t a mere arbiter, an “entity” standing above society and mediating its contradictions, but an organ of class domination, which openly struggles against revolutionary potential in order to preserve the “present” class relations. Having that in mind, the bourgeois state may present itself as a mediator but is, in its essence, protecting the capitalist mode of production and private property, which by itself makes it the protector of the capitalist class. So the state is, in a way, the main representative of power, which a single class may possess.

As Engels puts it: “Because the State arose from the need to hold class antagonisms in check, but because it arose, at the same time, in the midst of the conflict of these classes, it is, as a rule, the State of 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….”

  • Taken from: V. I. Lenin. 1919. The State and Revolution. 

 Therefore, the purpose of the state can’t be limited to just “confining class antagonisms” but actively participating in the class struggle, by siding with the dominant class.

The author continues to write about the emergence of “a new contradiction,” that is: “a general conflict between the State as an institution and general public” and, with that, a supposed new purpose of the State which “[…] serves here to habitually redirect overdue conflicts from one part of society to another, as a result of this the greater the class conflict in society the greater violent conflict between the State and its subjects”. Fascism being, according to the author, the “highest stage of this reaction redirecting the conflicts of class into a new struggle of suicidal self-imperialism.”

How are we to understand the “State as an institution” and “the general public”? As I pointed out before, the character of the state isn’t general. It is necessary as a facilitator of class interests of a given class and with it an organ ensuring class domination. From this, we conclude that in its essence and class character, its main purpose isn’t to ensure “law and order” and suppress the “general public”, but to safeguard class domination. That being said, the supposed contradiction between “the state and the general public” ought not to be understood as a separate conflict, but merely a representation of the class antagonisms in different forms. The repressive role a bourgeois state undoubtedly plays towards the “general public” (which is, by itself, an abstract term) is a logical extension of its raising itself above society and maintaining an alienated bureaucratized form. But the source of its repressive role is not the interests of the “state as an institution” but the interests of the capitalist class, mediated by the state. From this, we could conclude that the notion of equating and separating the “two contradictions” is somewhat nonsensical.

 Moving on, the author elaborates on the thesis of “the two contradictions,” which seems to be the formula with which they try to reconcile anarchists and Leninists, or in their own words:

 “The struggle of the Leninist/Communist against class contradiction is necessarily mirrored in the struggle of the anarchist against the state, and vice versa. The State is the hinge from which both class and state antagonisms reflect along the median. “

 This sentence again “equates” but separates the alleged two contradictions. Moreover, it implies that the nature of the communists’ struggle against the class contradictions is merely a reflection of anarchists’ struggle against the state. However, the complete opposite is true.

 By understanding class contradictions, communists equip themselves with the knowledge necessary to correctly analyze and understand the nature and purpose of the state. By that, they do not see it as a “general institution” but as a body ensuring class domination.

 This enables them to understand the transitory and self-destructive role of the proletarian half-state (the dictatorship of the proletariat), whose sole purpose is to establish socialism and abolish classes, and with it, the State itself. On the other hand, anarchists, basing their whole struggle on the supposed contradiction between the State “as an institution” and the “general public” and not being able to understand the essence of class relations, fail to understand the conditions and necessary prerequisites for the resolution of class conflict, and with it the abolishment of the State.

Of course, this statement isn’t directed at anarchists as a whole, among whom many understand the nature of class struggle, but at anarchists described by the author. Furthermore, the author talks about a post-revolutionary body as a synthesis of both “the people” (again, an abstraction) and the state, and directs us to the fact that there are several theories elaborating on the theory of this post-revolutionary body (Lenin’s, anarchists’, etc.). In conclusion, the author states that the concept is essentially the same “throughout all revolutionary theory” and that the “two contradictions” or in his words, “State and capital” are “[…] done away with and humanity is capable of socially existing in a manner unconstrained by its own reactionary insecurities.” The conclusion is itself a contradiction, because if the contradictions are done away with, mainly the one concerning class struggle, what’s the purpose of this post-revolutionary body? The function of the DotP and its role are necessarily conditioned by the existence of class contradictions, with the resolution of these contradictions leading to the self-abolition of the State. There is no point in speaking of a post-revolutionary body, the state, and assuming it arises in conditions where class-contradictions have already been resolved. This, in itself, contradicts the main purpose of the post-revolutionary state and its transitory role in abolishing classes and reaching socialism, a higher form of social organization. As Lenin puts it:

 “The dictatorship of the proletariat has done all it could to abolish classes. But classes cannot be abolished at one stroke. And classes still remain and will remain in the era of the dictatorship of the proletariat. The dictatorship will become unnecessary when classes disappear. Without the dictatorship of the proletariat they will not disappear.”    

  • V. I. Lenin. 1919. Economics And Politics In The Era Of The Dictatorship Of The Proletariat.

 Or:

 “The dictatorship of the proletariat is the continuation of the class struggle of the proletariat in new forms. That is the crux of the matter […]”

  • V. I. Lenin. 1919. The Dictatorship Of The Proletariat.

 This clearly points out the undoubtable fact of continuous class struggle in the post- revolutionary era. So there can be no talk about the State as a result of the resolution of class contradictions.

The author obviously insists on a form of theoretical reconciliation between communism and anarchism, by continuously directing the reader towards the supposed shortcomings of Leninism, which should, according to them, be supplemented by anarchist theory and vice versa.

The notion of reconciliation obviously stands on the prejudice of communist theory lacking the necessary knowledge to “struggle against the State” and anarchist theory having the correct theoretical standpoint of it. As I tried to point out before, this is very much not so. Clearly, the whole polemic leads up to this conclusion.

By artificially trying to prove the alleged shortcomings of Marxist theory in understanding the essence of the state and its purpose, the author proposes a theoretical unity and reconciliation of anarchism and Marxism (Leninism, as he puts it). And at the very end, they emphasize the importance of being both “Leninist and anarchist” in order to successfully understand and wage revolutionary politics. As I mentioned before, the sole understanding of class conflict enables Marxists to successfully analyze the purpose of the state as a body of class domination of both the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. In this regard, Marxism has no shortcomings, and is, in fact, proven to be superior to the utopian imagination of abolishing the state “at one stroke”. Thus, if we wish for our struggles to have a lasting impact, we are obliged to be Marxists.

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