Seven Questions for the Dalai Lama

Editor’s Note: It is a universal rule that all religions and their sects should forbid murdering and telling lies, and protect the interests of the country and its people. Tibetan Buddhism is no exception.

It is also a rule of Buddhism and a common understanding that life should be cherished and truth should be respected. However, reviewing some remarks and actions of the 14th Dalai Lama in recent years, the writer cannot help raising some questions to him. (original)

Q1:Why does the Dalai Lama deliberately incite Tibetans for self-immolation?

The Dalai Lama called on Tibetans not to celebrate Losar so as to memorize “the fallen heroes of Tibet” in Dharamsala, India on Feb.22, 2012.

The writer can’t help thinking that the Dalai Lama is deliberately encouraging Tibetans to self-immolate since he appealed to all Tibetans not to celebrate Losar in memorial of self-immolators.

It’s been thousands of years for Tibetans to celebrate Tibetan New Year, which is an important carrier of Tibetan culture, customs and emotions. Tibetans are able to obtain the great soul from Losar after a year of hard work.

However, “self-immolation” is an extreme way to end one’s life. In the modern age, any group or force encouraging self-immolation for their illegal purposes in any place is bound to be condemned.

UN declaration on measures to eliminate international terrorism declared that criminal acts intended or calculated to provoke a state of terror in the general public, a group of persons or particular communities for political purposes are in any circumstance unjustifiable, whatever the considerations of a political, philosophical, ideological, racial, ethnic, religious or any other nature that may be invoked to justify them.

From “3.14 Riots” in 2008 to recent self-immolations, all those incidents were premeditated long before and happened at a price of ordinary Tibetans’ peaceful life and even lives?

There is a saying in Buddism: “Saving one life is better than build a seven-storey pagoda”. Looking back, how many young lives have been terminated due to the Dalai Lama’s bewitching. Even if the Dalai Lama build hundreds of thousands of temples, it could not offset his sin in inciting repeated self-immolations of young monks.

Q2: Who extinguishes Tibetan culture?

In November 2011, the 14th Dalai Lama acclaimed in Japan that the reason for Tibetan monks’ self-immolations was “China’s policy on extinguishing Tibetan culture”.

As to “Tibetan culture”, the Dalai Lama follows such a logic: Tibetan culture is the culture of Tibetan Buddhism, the culture of Tibetan Buddhism is the culture of the Gelug Sect (the yellow sect of Tibetan Buddhism, and the sect of the Dalai Lama) while the Dalai Lama has the final speaking in the Gelug Sect.

In other words, anything that goes against the Dalai Lama is regarded by him as “extirpation of Tibetan culture”. What a ridiculous idea! The Dalai Lama still treats himself as the serf owner, Tibet as his property and Tibetan people as his slaves.

A scholar has pointed out that the so-called “extinguished Tibetan culture” refers to the absolute privilege of the religious figures. In the Dalai Lama’s eyes, the fact that common Tibetans master the culture would violate the stiff hierarchy of theocracy.

In fact, Tibetan culture consists of not only religious culture but also folk culture, not only traditional culture but also modern culture, not only the culture of the Tibetan ethnic group but also the cultures of other ethnic groups, such as Confucius culture, Mongolian culture and Manchu culture.

The religious culture has never been the only content of Tibetan culture, let alone the “Dalai Lama’s culture” or “Gelug culture”. The 14th Dalai Lama racks his brains to cheat the world that he develops the whole Tibetan culture if he develops the Gelug culture. What he does is the worst “extirpation of Tibetan culture”!

In the writer’s opinion, the Dalai Lama’s “extirpation of Tibetan culture” exposes his ugly purpose: he attempts to meet the demand of Tibetan separatists and stir up the Western forces’ “impulse to put pressure on China” in order to realize his aim of restoring Tibet’s serfdom and dividing China.

Q3: Are the central government of China and Tibet in a “Supply and Granting” relationship?

The 14th Dalai Lama claimed in his “Reincarnation Statement” that the “Supply and Granting” relationship between the central governments of Qing Dynasty (1636-1912) and Tibet didn’t change even when the 13th Dalai Lama was conferred in 1879.

His statement implied that inland China and Tibet was historically in the so-called “Supply and Granting” relationship, and denied Tibet as an administratively subordinative region of China.

Reviewing the history of Qing, however, the author cannot help wondering why the Dalai Lama, known for his lineal memory of previous life, suddenly became “amnesiac” and denies the fact that Tibet is an inalienable part of China. The author would like to help Dalai Lama recover his memory kindly by raising some questions.

Since the Dalai Lama considered the central government and Tibet had no “Supply and Granting” relationship when he was appointed, why was he so polite towards the central government’s ministers stationed in Tibet, reporting everything and seeking for support whenever he met problems?

Did he remember that he had directly reported to the emperor but was denied for bypassing the ministers stationed in Tibet?

The author believes that his previous life didn’t forget these facts before he was reincarnated, and he should not suddenly lose memory. He cannot go so far as to deny those facts as a human being.

Here is a piece of advice for the Dalai Lama: if there were no “Supply and Granting” relationship between the central government and Tibet and no drawing lot from the golden urn, the Dalai Lama and his previous life would not have existed either, let alone the “shows” he performed today.

At present,”traveling through time” is prevalent in the films and TV series. And I think the Dalai Lama should also “travel back” and review his previous life, and then he will tell the truth.

Q4: Why did you build up a “Berlin Wall” of national antagonism?

“Since the Berlin Wall collapsed, the world has witnessed that despotism has no future…the world belongs to humanity, and every country belongs to its people, not a political party, nor a king or spiritual leaders”, said the Dalai Lama in an interview with the Voice of America (VOA) in July 2011, acting as if he is the “protector” of the world.

However, the author once noticed that the Dalai Lama stated in the “Memorandum on Genuine Autonomy for the Tibetan People” (delivered in November 2008) that “it would be vital that” the so-called future “autonomous organs of self-government have the authority to regulate the residence, settlement and employment or economic activities of persons who wish to move to Tibetan areas from other parts of the PRC”. This remark is a public declaration to expel non-Tibetan residents out of Tibet.

At the same time, the Dalai Lama and his followers advocated the “promotion of harmonious relationships between the Tibetan and Han people” with their tongues in cheeks, colluding with some shameless scholars to organize “Friendship Association between the Tibetan and Han people”. Through the contrast, it is evident that the Dalai Lama is a tricky liar skilled in double-dealing. His real intention of stirring up national hatred is obvious.

To be specific, the Dalai Lama was preying for support and sympathy with so-called slogan of “autonomy”, so that the feudal serfdom can be restored one day; and in the name of “protecting ethnic characteristics”, he was actually building up a “Berlin Wall” of ethnic segregation and confrontation.

The remarks of the Dalai Lama remind us of the uncontrolled and cruel Nazi during the Second World War.

Behind the Dalai Lama’s concepts of “Middle Way Approach” and “high-level autonomy” is actually the idea of ethnic separation.

How similar it is to the Holocaust committed by Hitler on the Jewish!

Q5: Who do you speak for?

On February 10, 2010, the Dalai Lama asserted that he had responsibilities to speak for 6 million Tibetans during his trip of U.S.

He always plays tricks under the cover of doing good for Tibetans. It is doubtable that the Dalai Lama would speak on the behalf Tibetans as he is sponsored by the US and his relatives work for Central Intelligence Agency.

Let us find out who does the Dalai Lama actually speaks for.

The Dalai Lama claimed himself “son of India” on November 22nd, 2009. To be filial to his “father”, Dalai frequently exclaimed that the Lhoka Prefecture in Tibet belongs to India. He even said that India was better qualified for claiming Tibet’s sovereignty.

The Dalai Lama is the largest serf-owner in the old Tibet. He enjoyed the obedience of officials and owned all land, livestock and serfs.

The secular Geluns who followed him fleeing to India are no exception from oppressors. Top leaders of the Dalai Clique are merely ordinary Tibetans.

As for lives of the Tibetan communities in exile, they live in poverty and misery which can not be compared with their counterparts in China. It is doubted whether the Dalai Lama could repay them.

The Dalai Lama is labeled as “American follower”, “Son of India” and the formerly “serf-owner”. He speaks for his overseas boss and the feudal serf system. Democracy and election, out of his feudal realm before, became his “slogan” now. What a fickle man.

There is no possibility that the Dalai Lama can serve as a qualified leader for his followers. Unless he had rewritten his gene mapping as a serf-owner and traitor, could he be the spokesman of the Tibetans, which we all know is impossible.

Q6: Who are you praying for?

The Dalai Lama always says that he admires the courage of those who have died in self-immolation incidents and he will pray for them. To win the chance of being prayed by the Dalai Lama who has special religious status, his followers are in no doubt required to imitate their “examples”. The Dalai Lama has pointed out the method: “self-immolation’.

Praying is a common thing in religion, but if it were used with despicable intention it would become curse. What is the 14th Dalai Lama actually praying for then?

At first glance, the Dalai Lama seems to have prayed a lot: he did pray for the accidents such as Japan earthquake, the tsunami in Indonesia, and Taiwan typhoon.

However, when it comes to the interests of the United States and his other supporters, the Dalai Lama must be tight-lipped regardless of creatures being trampled on. For example, recently the US soldiers shot a dozen Afghan women and children, but the Dalai Lama dared not speak even a word. How clever he is!

The Wenchuan earthquake on May 12, 2008 killed tens of thousands of lives instantly including many Tibetans. When some of them were not confirmed dead or alive, on May 15, the Dalai Lama visited Germany. However, he made no comment on the human catastrophe when many Tibetans were suffering physical and mental pain, nor did he express a trace of sympathy. Sources said that the Dalai Lama was in inexplicable ecstasy, showing his “real gaffe “.

What’s more, the Dalai Lama did nothing for the quake-hit Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in northwest China’s Qinghai Province, though he murmured a few words. It was the huge investment from central government that helped the affected Tibetans to rebuild their homes quickly.

After all, the Dalai Lama’s “prayer” is just a political one. He himself should know clearly whether his title of “Nobel Peace Prize winner” is true or false. He painted camouflage of “blessing”, but the color is peeling off and the inside is being brought to light.

Q7: Why Dalai Lama is despised by Netizens?

Before each self-immolation, it was always accompanied by activities such as “religious affairs” or “assemble meeting” organized by the Dalai Clique. The Chinese netizens gave an insight into the case.

Netizens said the Dalai Lama and his followers, who were all religious figures, had intervened in politics. It should not be allowed by any civilized society.

The Dalai Lama’s motive is clear: to restore the feudal serfdom system in Tibet under the cloak of “democracy”, “election” and “peace” with helps from his foreign partners.

Neither the history nor the people would agree.

The netizens’ voices generally represent the public opinions. We wonder if the Dalai Lama is aware of the fact that he is despised by the public.

The Dalai Lama isn’t worthy of worship. He has never felt contented for his super privilege as head of the feudal serfdom society. So today it is impossible for the monk to “debase himself” and join in carrying out the “democracy”.

Here, I would like to give a piece of advice to the Dalai Lama that if he continued to place himself against the country and the people, he wouldn’t have a good end.

Don’t even think about trying to separate Tibet from China. All the 56 ethnic groups unite together here.

The following is a letter written by a netizen to the Dalai Lama and his western supporters:

I ask God, “When will Tibet be independent?”

God answers, “It is impossible until the earth comes to the end.”

I ask, “Why do some people still play tricks to split China?'”

God illustrates, “They are ignorant, boring and inhuman.”

I am confused and ask, “Why don’t you punish them?'”

God says, “I am in charge of human beings’ behaviors rather than domestic animals.”

I ask, “Who will be responsible for them?'”

God answers contemptuously, “You’d better ask ‘Miss Liberty’ in US.'”

“The white pretentious woman standing at the harbor called ‘Liberty’? ”

“Yes, it is her.'”

“Well, to be frank, I don’t believe in her.”

*note: Originally published on China Tibet OnlineMarch 23, 2012.

White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack

by Peggy Macintosh

Posted by kasama on March 25, 2012

The following essay first appeared in the Winter 1990 issue of Independent School. Other pieces describe the structures and evolution of white supremacy in the U.S. This widely circulated essay is a cataloguing of how white supremacy is experienced — by those who are white.  

Today, we would want to start with the questions:

When you walk to the store, are you worried that a crazed armed neighbor will confront and then shoot you because he thinks  you don’t belong there?

When you kiss your son goodbye at the door, do you worry that he might face sudden deadly attack from racist nuts or police authorities?

Through work to bring materials from women’s studies into the rest of the curriculum, I have often noticed men’s unwillingness to grant that they are overprivileged, even though they may grant that women are disadvantaged. They may say they will work to women’s status, in the society, the university, or the curriculum, but they can’t or won’t support the idea of lessening men’s. Denials that amount to taboos surround the subject of advantages that men gain from women’s disadvantages. These denials protect male privilege from being fully acknowledged, lessened, or ended.

Thinking through unacknowledged male privilege as a phenomenon, I realized that, since hierarchies in our society are interlocking, there is most likely a phenomenon of white privilege that was similarly denied and protected. As a white person, I realized I had been taught about racism as something that puts others at a disadvantage, but had been taught not to see one of its corollary aspects, white privilege, which puts me at an advantage.

I think whites are carefully taught not to recognize white privilege, as males are taught not to recognize male privilege. So I have begun in an untutored way to ask what it is like to have white privilege. I have come to see white privilege as an invisible package of unearned assets that I can count on cashing in each day, but about which I was “meant” to remain oblivious.

White privilege is like an invisible weightless knapsack of special provisions, maps, passports, codebooks, visas, clothes, tools and blank checks.

Describing white privilege makes one newly accountable. As we in women’s studies work to reveal male privilege and ask men to give up some of their power, so one who writes about having white privilege must ask, “having described it, what will I do to lessen or end it?”

After I realized the extent to which men work from a base of unacknowledged privilege, I understood that much of their oppressiveness was unconscious. Then I remembered the frequent charges from women of color that white women whom they encounter are oppressive. I began to understand why we are justly seen as oppressive, even when we don’t see ourselves that way. I began to count the ways in which I enjoy unearned skin privilege and have been conditioned into oblivion about its existence.

My schooling gave me no training in seeing myself as an oppressor, as an unfairly advantaged person, or as a participant in a damaged culture. I was taught to see myself as an individual whose moral state depended on her individual moral will. My schooling followed the pattern my colleague Elizabeth Minnich has pointed out: whites are taught to think of their lives as morally neutral, normative, and average, and also ideal, so that when we work to benefit others, this is seen as work that will allow them to be more like us.

I decided to try to work on myself at least by identifying some of the daily effects of white privilege in my life. I have chosen those conditions that I think in my case attach somewhat more to skin-color privilege than to class, religion, ethnic status, or geographic location, though of course all these other factors are intricately intertwined. As far as I can tell, my African American coworkers, friends, and acquaintances with whom I come into daily or frequent contact in this particular time, place and line of work cannot count on most of these conditions.

1. I can, if I wish, arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time.

2. If I should need to move, I can be pretty sure of renting or purchasing housing in an area that I can afford and in which I would want to live.

3. I can be pretty sure that my neighbors in such a location will be neutral or pleasant to me.

4. I can go shopping alone most of the time, pretty well assured that I will not be followed or harassed.

5. I can turn on the television or open to the front page of the paper and see people of my race widely represented.

6. When I am told about our national heritage or about civilization, I am shown that people of my color made it what it is.

7. I can be sure that my children will be given curricular materials that testify to the existence of their race.

8. If I want to, I can be pretty sure of finding a publisher for this piece on white privilege.

9. I can go into a music shop and count on finding the music of my race represented, into a supermarket and find the staple foods that fit with my cultural traditions, into a hairdresser’s shop and find someone who can deal with my hair.

10. Whether I use checks, credit cards, or cash, I can count on my skin color not to work against the appearance of financial reliability.

11. I can arrange to protect my children most of the time from people who might not like them.

12. I can swear, or dress in second-hand clothes or not answer letters without having people attribute these choices to the bad morals, the poverty, or the illiteracy of my race.

13. I can speak in public to a powerful male group without putting my race on trial.

14. I can do well in a challenging situation without being called a credit to my race.

15. I am never asked to speak for all the people of my racial group.

16. I can remain oblivious of the language and customs of persons of color, who constitute the worlds’ majority, without feeling in my culture any penalty for such oblivion.

17. I can criticize our government and talk about how much I fear its policies and behavior without being seen as a cultural outsider.

18. I can be sure that if I ask to talk to “the person in charge” I will be facing a person of my race.

19. If a traffic cop pulls me over, or if the IRS audits my tax return, I can be sure I haven’t been singled out because of my race.

20. I can easily buy posters, postcards, picture books, greeting cards, dolls, toys, and children’s magazines featuring people of my race.

21. I can go home from most meetings or organizations I belong to feeling somewhat tied in rather than isolated, out of place, outnumbered, unheard, held at a distance, or feared.

22. I can take a job with an affirmative action employer without having coworkers on the job suspect that I got it because of race.

23. I can choose public accommodations without fearing that people of my race cannot get in or will be mistreated in the places I have chosen.

24. I can be sure that if I need legal or medical help my race will not work against me.

25. If my day, week, or year is going badly, I need not ask of each negative episode or situation whether it has racial overtones.

26. I can chose blemish cover or bandages in flesh color that more or less matches my skin.

Elusive and Fugitive

I repeatedly forgot each of the realizations on this list until I wrote it down. For me white privilege has turned out to be an elusive and fugitive subject. The pressure to avoid it is great, for in facing it I must give up the myth of meritocracy. If these things are true, this is not such a free country; ones’ life is not what one makes it; many doors open for certain people through no virtues of their own.

In unpacking this invisible knapsack of white privilege, I have listed conditions of daily experience that I once took for granted. Nor did I think of any of these perquisites as bad for the holder. I now think that we need a more finely differentiated taxonomy of privilege, for some of these varieties are only what one would want for everyone in a just society, and others give license to be ignorant, oblivious, arrogant, and destructive.

I see a pattern running through the matrix of white privilege, a pattern of assumptions that were passed on to me as a white person. There was one main piece of cultural turf; it was my own turn, and I was among those who could control the turf. My skin color was an asset for any move I was educated to want to make. I could think of myself as belonging in major ways and of making social systems work for me. I could freely disparage, fear, neglect, or be oblivious to anything outside of the dominant cultural forms. Being of the main culture, I could also criticize it fairly freely.

In proportion as my racial group was being made confident, comfortable, and oblivious, other groups were likely being made unconfident, uncomfortable, and alienated. Whiteness protected me from many kinds of hostility, distress, and violence, which I was being subtly trained to visit, in turn, upon people of color.

For this reason, the word privilege now seems to me misleading. We usually think of privilege as being a favored state, whether earned or conferred by birth or luck. Yet some of the conditions I have described here work systematically to overempower certain groups. Such privilege simply confers dominance because of one’s race or sex.

Earned strength, unearned power

I want, then, to distinguish between earned strength and unearned power conferred systematically. Privilege can look like strength when it is in fact permission to escape or to dominate. Power from unearned privilege can look like strength when it is in fact permission to escape or to dominate. But not all of the privileges on my list are inevitably damaging. Some, like the expectation that neighbors will be decent to you, or that your race will not count against you in court, should be the norm in a just society. Others, like the privilege to ignore less powerful people, distort the humanity of the holders as well as the ignored groups.

We might at least start by distinguishing between positive advantages, which we can work to spread, and negative types of advantage, which unless rejected will always reinforce our present hierarchies. For example, the feeling that one belongs within the human circle, as Native Americans say, should not be seen as privilege for a few. Ideally it is an unearned entitlement. At present, since only a few have it, it is an unearned advantage for them. This paper results from a process of coming to see that some of the power that I originally say as attendant on being a human being in the United States consisted in unearned advantage and conferred dominance.

I have met very few men who truly distressed about systemic, unearned male advantage and conferred dominance. And so one question for me and others like me is whether we will be like them, or whether we will get truly distressed, even outraged, about unearned race advantage and conferred dominance, and, if so, what we will do to lessen them. In any case, we need to do more work in identifying how they actually affect our daily lives. Many, perhaps most, of our white students in the United States think that racism doesn’t affect them because they are not people of color; they do not see whiteness as a racial identity. In addition, since race and sex are not the only advantaging systems at work, we need similarly to examine the daily experience of having age advantage, or ethnic advantage, or physical ability, or advantage related to nationality, religion, or sexual orientation.

Difficulties and angers surrounding the task of finding parallels are many. Since racism, sexism, and heterosexism are not the same, the advantages associated with them should not be seen as the same. In addition, it is hard to disentangle aspects of unearned advantage that rest more on social class, economic class, race, religion, sex, and ethnic identity than on other factors. Still, all of the oppressions are interlocking, as the members of the Combahee River Collective pointed out in their “Black Feminist Statement of 1977″.

One factor seems clear about all of the interlocking oppressions. They take both active forms, which we can see, and embedded forms, which as a member of the dominant groups one is taught not to see. In my class and place, I did not see myself as a racist because I was taught to recognize racism only in individual acts of meanness by members of my group, never in invisible systems conferring unsought racial dominance on my group from birth.

Disapproving of the system won’t be enough to change them. I was taught to think that racism could end if white individuals changed their attitude. But a “white” skin in the United States opens many doors for whites whether or not we approve of the way dominance has been conferred on us. Individual acts can palliate but cannot end, these problems.

To redesign social systems we need first to acknowledge their colossal unseen dimensions. The silences and denials surrounding privilege are the key political tool here. They keep the thinking about equality or equity incomplete, protecting unearned advantage and conferred dominance by making these subject taboo. Most talk by whites about equal opportunity seems to me now to be about equal opportunity to try to get into a position of dominance while denying that systems of dominance exist.

It seems to me that obliviousness about white advantage, like obliviousness about male advantage, is kept strongly inculturated in the United States so as to maintain the myth of meritocracy, the myth that democratic choice is equally available to all. Keeping most people unaware that freedom of confident action is there for just a small number of people props up those in power and serves to keep power in the hands of the same groups that have most of it already.

Although systemic change takes many decades, there are pressing questions for me and, I imagine, for some others like me if we raise our daily consciousness on the perquisites of being light-skinned. What will we do with such knowledge? As we know from watching men, it is an open question whether we will choose to use unearned advantage to weaken hidden system of advantage, and whether we will use any of our arbitrarily awarded power to try to reconstruct power systems on a broader base.

*note: Peggy McIntosh is associate director of the Wellesley Collage Center for Research on Women. This essay is excerpted from Working Paper 189. White Privilege and Male Privilege: A Personal Account of Coming To See Correspondences through Work in Women’s Studies (1988), by Peggy McIntosh; available for $4.00 from the Wellesley College Center for Research on Women, Wellesley MA 02181 The working paper contains a longer list of privileges.

Ron Paul Hates Me (Black, non-white, GLBTQ, Working, and Poor People, really)

by Cliff Cawthon

When talking to many friends about Ron Paul there’s one suggestion that always repulses me: ‘you should register Republican to vote for Ron Paul….he’s anti-corporate and anti-war’. No, I shouldn’t vote for someone who wrote in a 1980- 1990’s newsletter that “Order was only restored in L.A. when it came time for the blacks to pick up their welfare checks”.  Ron Paul is tied to bigots and a friend to neoliberal capitalism and business. Furthermore, my non-U.S. friends may desire the empire to collapse but Paul will fiddle while completing the American ‘wall’: along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Issue by issue, Paul’s right-libertarian policies reproduce his populist ignorance. His is touted as a peace loving savior but, his KKK wizard friends, such as; David Duke and Don Black (seriously, look it up on News One) wouldn’t appreciate an America  that is apart of the global community. Paul’s paleo-conservative love of isolationism is precisely that. What is rather disturbing is that Paul’s isolationism means that we retreat to our borders, with the stuff we’ve expropriated and that U.S. corporations continue to expropriate from faraway places. A fortress America also would be an America of states rights’ (something which Ron Paul avidly supports) state’s rights enabled American Apartheid (a.k.a. Jim Crow) to occur by relieving themselves from observing U.S. constitutional or federal law.

Let’s remember, unless you were a white, wealthy landowning (probably slave-owning), male, Protestant Christian, and heterosexual (homosexuality was considered sinful and socially abhorrent at that time) America’s promise was simply propaganda. Only later on, constitutional amendments such as, the 13th(freedom from slavery), 14th (Equal Rights, Privileges and Immunities of citizenship, Due process, and Equal Protection), 15th (Right to vote), and acts such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 were political and civil manifestations that were the result of struggle and of social and political change. These things weren’t conceived by the “founders” who dominated another class of people (namely my ancestors) by virtue of how much property that they had, particularly via the ownership of others. These changes however, occurred through a convergence of changing economic conditions, social movements, and political struggle from pressure from below that translated into concession s and adjustments from above.

Owners, bosses, slaveholders, agrarian America’s bourgeoisie led the revolution that Paul fervently alludes to like a fanatic. When I hear some Paul supporters hailing Paul and ‘constitutionalism’ they forget the aforementioned clash between classes and the evolutionary nature of bourgeois republics’. People like David Duke, just want to take us back to 1776 or 1950’s in Mississippi where WASPMH’s (white, Anglo-Saxon, protestant, male, heterosexual) ruled and people ‘knew their place in the real America’ and we didn’t have to worry about “Obama’s corporate commu-nazi fascist socialist imperialism”, a la big government.

In a few words: Paul’s aspirations are inspired by a system supported by slaveocracy and merchant-barons- the America of Jefferson, Washington, and Franklin. He’s very clear about this, no ifs, ands, or buts.

Paul’s positions against corporations have gotten a lot of support as well, but he’s more pro-corporate than the openly pro-business candidates! Paul’s position is complete laissez-faire. The machinery of the state, as opposed to being operated in the public’s interests or addressing historical inequalities will either be abolished or privately run. Upon the private sector being de-regulated corporations outsourced millions of jobs and reduced cities like Buffalo from gilded living cities to communities on life-support. In doing so, it widened the historical race gap. It has been government intervention, not abstention that has helped close the gap. For example, in the wake of the deregulation of the Bush regime, U.S. National Public Radio and the Pew Research Center cited a significant decrease in income for non-white people: the black home was 20 times poorer than white in 2009.

So whose interest is Paul’s utopia in? When he says that the 1964 Civil Rights Act “undermine[d] the concept of liberty”, I know that it wouldn’t include me; or anyone who comprises the has-nots.  However, one cannot completely erase history; the catch of this liberty is that it covers those with power, privilege or favor.

Ron Paul’s message of universal liberty from government intrusion, taxation, via the free market, based on what the founders intended wouldn’t have been good for a slave. I would have been enslaved in 1776 as America declared its independence! That’s what Paul’s vision means to me.

To my friends who suggest Ron Paul as a left-wing alternative to Obama and do mean well, I hope you consider that his agenda represents the opposite of what we want. Do we want capitalism to be unregulated so people with money can accumulate as much as they want and buy up the world around us? No, because that is control. It’s small government but big corporations where everything is a commodity and greed.

Lastly, For my anti-war friends, don’t just judge on moralistic talk. If we are for peace in general then we have to accept our mistakes.  Lastly, we’ve messed up. The last 100 years we have gone across the world and we’ve done horrific things but, the only thing we can do is make it right. Global poverty is not an accident and simply withdrawing bases and troops as a panacea is Paul’s pipe dream. We are the result of people we don’t even know, so we owe it to our brothers and sisters to work for a better tomorrow. Not praise slaveholders and imperialists and wish for Jim Crow, at home or abroad.

Also, on a racial note to my white friends who identify with Paul’s ideas, do you really want to identify with a particular (and recent) strain of libertarianism that is based on racial and class privilege? If so, then remember the true crime of racism is that we are stuck in our skin: you and I, white and black. Therefore, there’s a dynamic of privilege and un-privilege, whereas human beings are given goods and prioritized by an artificial category. Paul and likewise, European fascists who want to defend “western values” or ‘mainstream’ intellectuals like the riot-hawk David Starkey, who attributed the multiethnic riot to white kids “turning black”, refuse to see  race or acknowledge historical un-privilege. We have to deal with these things, or we fear repeating the horrors of the past. So let’s not start smoking Paul’s crack pipe.

*note: Originally posted on http://www.redemancipation.wordpress.com

The State: A Lecture Delivered at the Sverdlov University

by Vladimir Lenin

Comrades, according to the plan you have adopted and which has been conveyed to me, the subject of today’s talk is the state.

I do not know how familiar you are already with this subject. If I am not mistaken your courses have only just begun and this is the first time you will be tackling this subject systematically. If that is so, then it may very well happen that in the first lecture on this difficult subject I may not succeed in making my exposition sufficiently clear and comprehensible to many of my listeners. And if this should prove to be the case, I would request you not to be perturbed by the fact, because the question of the state is a most complex and difficult one, perhaps one that more than any other has been confused by bourgeois scholars, writers and philosophers.

It should not therefore be expected that a thorough understanding of this subject can be obtained from one brief talk, at a first sitting. After the first talk on this subject you should make a note of the passages which you have not understood or which are not clear to you, and return to them a second, a third and a fourth time, so that what you have not understood may be further supplemented and elucidated later, both by reading and by various lectures and talks. I hope that we may manage to meet once again and that we shall then be able to exchange opinions on all supplementary questions and see what has remained most unclear.

I also hope that in addition to talks and lectures you will devote some time to reading at least a few of the most important works of Marx and Engels. I have no doubt that these most important works are to be found in the lists of books and in the handbooks which are available in your library for the students of the Soviet and Party school; and although, again, some of you may at first be dismayed by the difficulty of the exposition, I must again warn you that you should not let this worry you; what is unclear at a first reading will become clear at a second reading, or when you subsequently approach the question from a somewhat different angle. For I once more repeat that the question is so complex and has been so confused by bourgeois scholars and writers that anybody who desires to study it seriously and master it independently must attack it several times, return to it again and again and consider it from various angles in order to attain a clear, sound understanding of it.

Because it is such a fundamental, such a basic question in all politics, and because not only in such stormy and revolutionary times as the present, but even in the most peaceful times, you will come across it every day in any newspaper in connection with any economic or political question it will be all the easier to return to it. Every day, in one context or another, you will be returning to the question: what is the state, what is its nature, what is its significance and what is the attitude of our Party, the party that is fighting for the overthrow of capitalism, the Communist Party—what is its attitude to the state? And the chief thing is that you should acquire, as a result of your reading, as a result of the talks and lectures you will hear on the state, the ability to approach this question independently, since you will be meeting with it on the most diverse occasions, in connection with the most trifling questions, in the most unexpected contexts and in discussions and disputes with opponents.

Only when you learn to find your way about independently in this question may you consider yourself sufficiently confirmed in your convictions and able with sufficient success to defend them against anybody and at any time.

After these brief remarks, I shall proceed to deal with the question itself—what is the state, how did it arise and fundamentally what attitude to the state should be displayed by the party of the working class, which is fighting for the complete overthrow of capitalism—the Communist Party?

I have already said that you are not likely to find another question which has been so confused, deliberately and unwittingly, by representatives of bourgeois science, philosophy, jurisprudence, political economy and journalism, as the question of the state. To this day it is very often confused with religious questions; not only those professing religious doctrines (it is quite natural to expect it of them), but even people who consider themselves free from religious prejudice, very often confuse the specific question of the state with questions of religion and endeavour to build up a doctrine—very often a complex one, with an ideological, philosophical approach and argumentation—which claims that the state is something divine, something supernatural, that it is a certain force by virtue of which mankind has lived, that it is a force of divine origin which confers on people, or can confer on people, or which brings with it something that is not of man, but is given him from without.

And it must be said that this doctrine is so closely bound up with the interests of the exploiting classes—the landowners and the capitalists—so serves their interests, has so deeply permeated all the customs, views and science of the gentlemen who represent the bourgeoisie, that you will meet with vestiges of it on every hand, even in the view of the state held by the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries, although they are convinced that they can regard the state with sober eyes and reject indignantly the suggestion that they are under the sway of religious prejudices.

This question has been so confused and complicated because it affects the interests of the ruling classes more than any other question (yielding place in this respect only to the foundations of economic science). The doctrine of the state serves to justify social privilege, the existence of exploitation, the existence of capitalism—and that is why it would be the greatest mistake to expect impartiality on this question, to approach it in the belief that people who claim to be scientific can give you a purely scientific view on the subject.

In the question of the state, in the doctrine of the state, in the theory of the state, when you have become familiar with it and have gone into it deeply enough, you will always discern the struggle between different classes, a struggle which is reflected or expressed in a conflict of views on the state, in the estimate of the role and significance of the state.

To approach this question as scientifically as possible we must cast at least a fleeting glance back on the history of the state, its emergence and development.

The most reliable thing in a question of social science, and one that is most necessary in order really to acquire the habit of approaching this question correctly and not allowing oneself to get lost in the mass of detail or in the immense variety of conflicting opinion—the most important thing if one is to approach this question scientifically is not to forget the underlying historical connection, to examine every question from the standpoint of how the given phenomenon arose in history and what were the principal stages in its development, arid, from the standpoint of its development, to examine what it has become today.

I hope that in studying this question of the state you will acquaint yourselves with Engels’s book The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State. This is one of the fundamental works of modern socialism, every sentence of which can be accepted with confidence, in the assurance that it has not been said at random but is based on immense historical and political material. Undoubtedly, not all the parts of this work have been expounded in an equally popular and comprehensible way; some of them presume a reader who already possesses a certain knowledge of history and economics.

But I again repeat that you should not be perturbed if on reading this work you do not understand it at once. Very few people do. But returning to it later, when your interest has been aroused, you will succeed —in understanding the greater part, if not the whole of it. I refer to this book because it gives the correct approach to the question in the sense mentioned. It begins with a historical sketch of the origin of the state.

This question, like every other—for example, that of the origin of capitalism, the exploitation of man by man, socialism, how socialism arose, what conditions gave rise to it—can be approached soundly and confidently only if we cast a glance back on the history of its development as a whole.

In connection with this problem it should first of all be noted that the state has not always existed. There was a time when there was no state. It appears wherever and whenever a division of society into classes appears, whenever exploiters and exploited appear.

Before the first form of exploitation of man by man arose, the first form of division into classes—slave-owners and slaves—there existed the patriarchal family, or, as it is sometimes called, the clan family. (Clan-tribe; at the time people of one kin lived together.) Fairly definite traces of these primitive times have survived in the life of many primitive peoples; and if you take any work whatsoever on primitive civilisation, you will always come across more or less definite descriptions, indications and recollections of the fact that there was a time, more or less similar—to primitive communism, when the division of society into slave-owners and slaves did not exist. And in those times there was no state, no special apparatus for the systematic application of force and the subjugation of people by force. It is such an apparatus that is called the state.

In primitive society, when people lived in small family groups and were still at the lowest stages of development, in a condition approximating to savagery—an epoch from which modern, civilised human society is separated by several thousand years—there were yet no signs of the existence of a state. We find the predominance of custom, authority, respect, the power enjoyed by the elders of the clan; we find this power sometimes accorded to women the position of women then was not like the downtrodden and oppressed condition of women today—but nowhere do we find a special category of people set apart to rule others and who, for the sake and purpose of rule, systematically and permanently have at their disposal a certain apparatus of coercion, an apparatus of violence, such as is represented at the present time, as you all realise, by armed contingents of troops, prisons and other means of subjugating the will of others by force—all that which constitutes the essence of the state.

If we get away from what are known as religious teachings, from the subtleties, philosophical arguments and various opinions advanced by bourgeois scholars, if we get away from these and try to get at the real core of the matter, we shall find that the state really does amount to such an apparatus of rule which stands outside society as a whole. When there appears such a special group of men occupied solely with government, and who in order to rule need a special apparatus of coercion to subjugate the will of others by force—prisons, special contingents of men, armies, etc.—then there appears the state.

But there was a time when there was no state, when general ties, the community itself, discipline and the ordering of work were maintained by force of custom and tradition, by the authority or the respect enjoyed by the elders of the clan or by women—who in those times not only frequently enjoyed a status equal to that of men, but not infrequently enjoyed an even higher status—and when there was no special category of persons who were specialists in ruling. History shows that the state as a special apparatus for coercing people arose wherever and whenever there appeared a division of society into classes, that is, a division into groups of people some of which were permanently in a position to appropriate the labour of others, where some people exploited others.

And this division of society into classes must always be clearly borne in mind as a fundamental fact of history.

The development of all human societies for thousands of years, in all countries without exception, reveals a general conformity to law, a regularity and consistency; so that at first we had a society without classes—the original patriarchal, primitive society, in which there were no aristocrats; then we had a society based on slavery—a slaveowning society. The whole of modern, civilised Europe has passed through this stage—slavery ruled supreme two thousand years ago. The vast majority of peoples of the other parts of the world also passed through this stage. Traces of slavery survive to this day among the less developed peoples; you will find the institution of slavery in Africa, for example, at the present time.

The division into slaveowners and slaves was the first important class division. The former group not only owned all the means of production—the land and the implements, however poor and primitive they may have been in those times—but also owned people. This group was known as slave-owners, while those who laboured and supplied labour for others were known as slaves.

This form was followed in history by another—feudalism. In the great majority of countries slavery in the course of its development evolved into serfdom. The fundamental division of society was now into feudal lords and peasant serfs. The form of relations between people changed. The slave-owners had regarded the slaves as their property; the law had confirmed this view and regarded the slave as a chattel completely owned by the slave-owner. As far as the peasant serf was concerned, class oppression and dependence remained, but it was not considered that the feudal lord owned the peasants as chattels, but that he was only entitled to their labour, to the obligatory performance of certain services. In practice, as you know, serfdom, especially in Russia where it survived longest of all and assumed the crudest forms, in no way differed from slavery.

Further, with the development of trade, the appearance of the world market and the development of money circulation, a new class arose within feudal society—the capitalist class. From the commodity, the exchange of commodities and the rise of the power of money, there derived the power of capital. During the eighteenth century, or rather, from the end of the eighteenth century and during the nineteenth century, revolutions took place all over the world. Feudalism was abolished in all the countries of Western Europe. Russia was the last country in which this took place. In 1861 a radical change took place in Russia as well; as a consequence of this one form of society was replaced by another—feudalism was replaced by capitalism, under which division into classes remained, as well as various traces and remnants of serfdom, but fundamentally the division into classes assumed a different form.

The owners of capital, the owners of the land and the owners of the factories in all capitalist countries constituted and still constitute an insignificant minority of the population who have complete command of the labour of the whole people, and, consequently, command, oppress and exploit the whole mass of labourers, the majority of whom are proletarians, wage-workers, who procure their livelihood in the process of production only by the sale of their own worker’s hands, their labour-power. With the transition to capitalism, the peasants, who had been disunited and downtrodden in feudal times, were converted partly (the majority) into proletarians, and partly (the minority) into wealthy peasants who themselves hired labourers and who constituted a rural bourgeoisie.

This fundamental fact—the transition of society from primitive forms of slavery to serfdom and finally to capitalism—you must always bear in mind, for only by remembering this fundamental fact, only by examining all political doctrines placed in this fundamental scheme, will you be able properly to appraise these doctrines and understand what they refer to; for each of these great periods in the history of mankind, slave-owning, feudal and capitalist, embraces scores and hundreds of centuries and presents such a mass of political forms, such a variety of political doctrines, opinions and revolutions, that this extreme diversity and immense variety (especially in connection with the political, philosophical and other doctrines of bourgeois scholars and politicians) can be understood only by firmly holding, as to a guiding thread, to this division of society into classes, this change in the forms of class rule, and from this standpoint examining all social questions—economic, political, spiritual, religious, etc.

If you examine the state from the standpoint of this fundamental division, you will find that before the division of society into classes, as I have already said, no state existed. But as the social division into classes arose and took firm root, as class society arose, the state also arose and took firm root.

The history of mankind knows scores and hundreds of countries that have passed or are still passing through slavery, feudalism and capitalism. In each of these countries, despite the immense historical changes that have taken place, despite all the political vicissitudes and all the revolutions due to this development of mankind, to the transition from slavery through feudalism to capitalism and to the present world-wide struggle against capitalism, you will always discern the emergence of the state. It has always been a certain apparatus which stood outside society and consisted of a group of people engaged solely, or almost solely, or mainly, in ruling. People are divided into the ruled, and into specialists in ruling, those who rise above society and are called rulers, statesmen. This apparatus, this group of people who rule others, always possesses certain means of coercion, of physical force, irrespective of whether this violence over people is expressed in the primitive club, or in more perfected types of weapons in the epoch of slavery, or in the firearms which appeared in the Middle Ages, or, finally, in modern weapons, which in the twentieth century are technical marvels and are based entirely on the latest achievements of modern technology.

The methods of violence changed, but whenever there was a state there existed in every society a group of persons who ruled, who commanded, who dominated and who in order to maintain their power possessed an apparatus of physical coercion, an apparatus of violence, with those weapons which corresponded to the technical level of the given epoch. And by examining these general phenomena, by asking ourselves why no state existed when there were no classes, when there were no exploiters and exploited, and why it appeared when classes appeared—only in this way shall we find a definite answer to the question of what is the nature and significance of the state.

The state is a machine for maintaining the rule of one class over another. When there were no classes in society, when, before the epoch of slavery, people laboured in primitive conditions of greater equality, in conditions when the productivity of labour was still at its lowest, and when primitive man could barely procure the wherewithal for the crudest and most primitive existence, a special group of people whose function is to rule and to dominate the rest of society, had not and could not yet have emerged.

Only when the first form of the division of society into classes appeared, only when slavery appeared, when a certain class of people, by concentrating on the crudest forms of agricultural labour, could produce a certain surplus, when this surplus was not absolutely essential for the most wretched existence of the slave and passed into the hands of the slave-owner, when in this way the existence of this class of slave-owners was secure—then in order that it might take firm root it was necessary for a state to appear.

And it did appear—the slave-owning state, an apparatus which gave the slave-owners power and enabled them to rule over the slaves. Both society and the state were then on a much smaller scale than they are now, they possessed incomparably poorer means of communication—the modern means of communication did not then exist. Mountains, rivers and seas were immeasurably greater obstacles than they are now, and the state took shape within far narrower geographical boundaries. A technically weak state apparatus served a state confined within relatively narrow boundaries and with a narrow range of action.

Nevertheless, there did exist an apparatus which compelled the slaves to remain in slavery, which kept one part of society subjugated to and oppressed by another. It is impossible to compel the greater part of society to work systematically for the other part of society without a permanent apparatus of coercion. So long as there were no classes, there was no apparatus of this sort. When classes appeared, everywhere and always, as the division grew and took firmer hold, there also appeared a special institution—the state.

The forms of state were extremely varied. As early as the period of slavery we find diverse forms of the state in the countries that were the most advanced, cultured and civilised according to the standards of the time—for example, in ancient Greece and Rome which were based entirely on slavery.

At that time there was already a difference between monarchy and republic, between aristocracy and democracy. A monarchy is the power of a single person, a republic is the absence of any non-elected authority; an aristocracy is the power of a relatively small minority, a democracy is the power of the people (democracy in Greek literally means the power of the people). All these differences arose in the epoch of slavery. Despite these differences, the state of the slave-owning epoch was a slave-owning state, irrespective of whether it was a monarchy or a republic, aristocratic or democratic.

In every course on the history of ancient times, in any lecture on this subject, you will hear about the struggle which was waged between the monarchical and republican states. But the fundamental fact is that the slaves were not regarded as human beings—not only were they not regarded as citizens, they were not even regarded as human beings. Roman law regarded them as chattels. The law of manslaughter, not to mention the other laws for the protection of the person, did not extend to slaves. It defended only the slaveowners, who were alone recognised as citizens with full rights.

But whether a monarchy was instituted or a republic, it was a monarchy of the slave-owners or a republic of the slave-owners. All rights were enjoyed by the slave-owners, while the slave was a chattel in the eyes of the law; and not only could any sort of violence be perpetrated against a slave, but even the killing of a slave was not considered a crime. Slave-owning republics differed in their internal organisation, there were aristocratic republics and democratic republics. In an aristocratic republic only a small number of privileged persons took part in the elections; in a democratic republic everybody took part but everybody meant only the slave-owners, that is, everybody except the slaves. This fundamental fact must be borne in mind, because it throws more light than any other on the question of the state and clearly demonstrates the nature of the state.

The state is a machine for the oppression of one class by another, a machine for holding in obedience to one class other, subordinated classes. There are various forms of this machine. The slave-owning state could be a monarchy, an aristocratic republic or even a democratic republic. In fact the forms of government varied extremely, but their essence was always the same: the slaves enjoyed no rights and constituted an oppressed class; they were not regarded as human beings. We find the same thing in the feudal state.

The change in the form of exploitation transformed the slave-owning state into the feudal state. This was of immense importance. In slave-owning society the slave enjoyed no rights whatever and was not regarded as a human being; in feudal society the peasant was bound to the soil. The chief distinguishing feature of serfdom was that the peasants (and at that time the peasants constituted the majority; the urban population was still very small) were considered bound to the land—this is the very basis of “serfdom”. The peasant might work a definite number of days for himself on the plot assigned to him by the landlord; on the other days the peasant serf worked for his lord. The essence of class society remained—society was based on class exploitation. Only the owners of the land could enjoy full rights; the peasants had no rights at all. In practice their condition differed very little from the condition of slaves in the slave-owning state.

Nevertheless, a wider road was opened for their emancipation, for the emancipation of the peasants, since the peasant serf was not regarded as the direct property of the lord. He could work part of his time on his own plot, could, so to speak, belong to himself to some extent; and with the wider opportunities for the development of exchange and trade relations the feudal system steadily disintegrated and the scope of emancipation of the peasantry steadily widened. Feudal society was always more complex than slave society. There was a greater development of trade and industry, which even in those days led to capitalism. In the Middle Ages feudalism predominated. And here too the forms of state varied, here too we find both the monarchy and the republic, although the latter was much more weakly expressed. But always the feudal lord was regarded as the only ruler. The peasant serfs were deprived of absolutely all political rights.

Neither under slavery nor under the feudal system could a small minority of people dominate over the vast majority without coercion. History is full of the constant attempts of the oppressed classes to throw off oppression. The history of slavery contains records of wars of emancipation from slavery which lasted for decades. Incidentally, the name “Spartacist” now adopted by the German Communists—the only German party which is really fighting against the yoke of capitalism—was adopted by them because Spartacus was one of the most prominent heroes of one of the greatest revolts of slaves, which took place about two thousand years ago.

For many years the seemingly omnipotent Roman Empire, which rested entirely on slavery, experienced the shocks and blows of a widespread uprising of slaves who armed and united to form a vast army under the leadership of Spartacus. In the end they were defeated, captured and put to torture by the slave-owners. Such civil wars mark the whole history of the existence of class society.

I have just mentioned an example of the greatest of these civil wars in the epoch of slavery. The whole epoch of feudalism is likewise marked by constant uprisings of the peasants. For example, in Germany in the Middle Ages the struggle between the two classes—the landlords and the serfs—assumed wide proportions and was transformed into a civil war of the peasants against the landowners. You are all familiar with similar examples of repeated uprisings of the peasants against the feudal landowners in Russia.

In order to maintain their rule and to preserve their power, the feudal lords had to have an apparatus by which they could unite under their subjugation a vast number of people and subordinate them to certain laws and regulations; and all these laws fundamentally amounted to one thing—the maintenance of the power of the lords over the peasant serfs. And this was the feudal state, which in Russia, for example, or in quite backward Asiatic countries (where feudalism prevails to this day) differed in form—it was either a republic or a monarchy. When the state was a monarchy, the rule of one person was recognised; when it was —a republic, the participation of the elected representatives of landowning society was in one degree or another recognised—this was in feudal society. Feudal society represented a division of classes under which the vast majority—the peasant serfs—were completely subjected to an insignificant minority—the owners of the land.

The development of trade, the development of commodity exchange, led to the emergence of a new class—the capitalists. Capital took shape at the close of the Middle Ages, when, after the discovery of America, world trade developed enormously, when the quantity of precious metals increased, when silver and gold became the medium of exchange, when money circulation made it possible for individuals to possess tremendous wealth. Silver and gold were recognised as wealth all over the world. The economic power of the landowning class declined and the power of the new class—the representatives of capital—developed.

The reconstruction of society was such that all citizens seemed to be equal, the old division into slave-owners and slaves disappeared, all were regarded as equal before the law irrespective of what capital each owned; whether he owned land as private property, or was a poor man who owned nothing but his labour-power—all were equal before the law. The law protects everybody equally; it protects the property of those who have it from attack by the masses who, possessing no property, possessing nothing but their labour-power, grow steadily impoverished and ruined and become converted into proletarians. Such is capitalist society.

I cannot dwell on it in detail. You will return to this when you come to discuss the Programme of the Party you will then hear a description of capitalist society. This society advanced against serfdom, against the old feudal system, under the slogan of liberty. But it was liberty for those who owned property. And when feudalism was shattered, which occurred at the end of the eighteenth century and the beginning of the nineteenth century—in Russia it occurred later than in other countries, in 1861—the feudal state was then superseded by the capitalist state, which proclaims liberty for the whole people as its slogan, which declares that it expresses the will of the whole people and denies that it is a class state. And here there developed a struggle between the socialists, who are fighting for the liberty of the whole people, and the capitalist state—a struggle which has led to the creation of the Soviet Socialist Republic and which is spreading all over the world.

To understand the struggle that has been started against world capital, to understand the nature of the capitalist state, we must remember that when the capitalist state advanced against the feudal state it entered the fight under the slogan of liberty. The abolition of feudalism meant liberty for the representatives of the capitalist state and served their purpose, inasmuch as serfdom was breaking down and the peasants had acquired the opportunity of owning as their full property the land which they had purchased for compensation or in part by quit-rent—this did not concern the state: it protected property irrespective of its origin, because the state was founded on private property.

The peasants became private owners in all the modern, civilised states. Even when the landowner surrendered part of his land to the peasant, the state protected private property, rewarding the landowner by compensation, by letting him take money for the land. The state as it were declared that it would fully preserve private property, and the state accorded it every support and protection. The state recognised the property rights of every merchant, industrialist and manufacturer. And this society, based on private property, on the power of capital, on the complete subjection of the propertyless workers and labouring masses of the peasantry, proclaimed that its rule was based on liberty. Combating feudalism, it proclaimed freedom of property and was particularly proud of the fact that the state had ceased, supposedly, to be a class state.

Yet the state continued to be a machine which helped the capitalists to hold the poor peasants and the working class in subjection. But in outward appearance it was free. It proclaimed universal suffrage, and declared through its champions, preachers, scholars and philosophers, that it was not a class state.

Even now, when the Soviet Socialist Republics have begun to fight the state, they accuse us of violating liberty, of building a state based on coercion, on the suppression of some by others, whereas they represent a popular, democratic state. And now, when the world socialist revolution has begun, and when the revolution has succeeded in some countries, when the fight against world capital has grown particularly acute, this question of the state has acquired the greatest importance and has become, one might say, the most burning one, the focus of all present-day political questions and political disputes.

Whichever party we take in Russia or in any of the more civilised countries, we find that nearly all political disputes, disagreements and opinions now centre around the conception of the state. Is the state in a capitalist country, in a democratic republic—especially one like Switzerland or the U.S.A.—in the freest democratic republics, an expression of the popular will, the sum total of the general decision of the people, the expression of the national will, and so forth; or is the state a machine that enables the capitalists of those countries to maintain their power over the working class and the peasantry? That is the fundamental question around which all political disputes all over the world now centre.

What do they say about Bolshevism? The bourgeois press abuses the Bolsheviks. You will not find a single newspaper that does not repeat the hackneyed accusation that the Bolsheviks violate popular rule. If our Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries in their simplicity of heart (perhaps it is not simplicity, or perhaps it is the simplicity which the proverb says is worse than robbery) think that they discovered and invented the accusation that the Bolsheviks have violated liberty and popular rule, they are ludicrously mistaken. Today every one of the richest newspapers in the richest countries, which spend tens of millions on their distribution and disseminate bourgeois lies and imperialist policy in tens of millions of copies—every one of these newspapers repeats these basic arguments and accusations against Bolshevism, namely, that the U.S.A., Britain and Switzerland are advanced states based on popular rule, whereas the Bolshevik republic is a state of bandits in which liberty is unknown, and that the Bolsheviks have violated the idea of popular rule and have even gone so far as to disperse the Constituent Assembly.

These terrible accusations against the Bolsheviks are repeated all over the world. These accusations lead us directly to the question—what is the state? In order to understand these accusations, in order to study them and have a fully intelligent attitude towards them, and not to examine them on hearsay but with a firm opinion of our own, we must have a clear idea of what the state is. We have before us capitalist states of every kind and all the theories in defence of them which were created before the war. In order to answer the question properly we must critically examine all these theories and views.

I have already advised you to turn for help to Engels’s book The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State. This book says that every state in which private ownership of the land and means of production exists, in which capital dominates, however democratic it may be, is a capitalist state, a machine used by the capitalists to keep the working class and the poor peasants in subjection; while universal suffrage, a Constituent Assembly, a parliament are merely a form, a sort of promissory note, which does not change the real state of affairs.

The forms of domination of the state may vary: capital manifests its power in one way where one form exists, and in another way where another form exists—but essentially the power is in the hands of capital, whether there are voting qualifications or some other rights or not, or whether the republic is a democratic one or not—in fact, the more democratic it is the cruder and more cynical is the rule of capitalism. One of the most democratic republics in the world is the United States of America, yet nowhere (and those who have been there since 1905 probably know it) is the power of capital, the power of a handful of multimillionaires over the whole of society, so crude and so openly corrupt as in America. Once capital exists, it dominates the whole of society, and no democratic republic, no franchise can change its nature.

The democratic republic and universal suffrage were an immense progressive advance as compared with feudalism; they have enabled the proletariat to achieve its present unity and solidarity, to form those firm and disciplined ranks which are waging a systematic struggle against capital. There was nothing even approximately resembling this among the peasant serfs, not to speak of the slaves.

The slaves, as we know, revolted, rioted, started civil wars, but they could never create a class-conscious majority and parties to lead the struggle, they could not clearly realise what their aims were, and even in the most revolutionary moments of history they were always pawns in the hands of the ruling classes. The bourgeois republic, parliament, universal suffrage—all represent great progress from the standpoint of the world development of society. Mankind moved towards capitalism, and it was capitalism alone which, thanks to urban culture, enabled the oppressed proletarian class to become conscious of itself and to create the world working-class movement, the millions of workers organised all over the world in parties—the socialist parties which are consciously leading the struggle of the masses. Without parliamentarism, without an electoral system, this development of the working class would have been impossible.

That is why all these things have acquired such great importance in the eyes of the broad masses of people. That is why a radical change seems to be so difficult. It is not only the conscious hypocrites, scientists and priests that uphold and defend the bourgeois lie that the state is free and that it is its mission to defend the interests of all; so also do a large number of people who sincerely adhere to the old prejudices and who cannot understand the transition from the old, capitalist society to socialism. Not only people who are directly dependent on the bourgeoisie, not only those who live under the yoke of capital or who have been bribed by capital (there are a large number of all sorts of scientists, artists, priests, etc. , in the service of capital), but even people who are simply under the sway of the prejudice of bourgeois liberty, have taken up arms against Bolshevism all over the world because when the Soviet Republic was founded it rejected these bourgeois lies and openly declared: you say your state is free, whereas in reality, as long as there is private property, your state, even if it is a democratic republic, is nothing but a machine used by the capitalists to suppress the workers, and the freer the state, the more clearly is this expressed.

Examples of this are Switzerland in Europe and the United States in America. Nowhere does capital rule so cynically and ruthlessly, and nowhere is it so clearly apparent, as in these countries, although they are democratic republics, no matter how prettily they are painted and notwithstanding all the talk about labour democracy and the equality of all citizens. The fact is that in Switzerland and the United States capital dominates, and every attempt of the workers to achieve the slightest real improvement in their condition is immediately met by civil war. There are fewer soldiers, a smaller standing army, in these countries—Switzerland has a militia and every Swiss has a gun at home, while in America there was no standing army until quite recently and so when there is a strike the bourgeoisie arms, hires soldiery and suppresses the strike; and nowhere is this suppression of the working-class movement accompanied by such ruthless severity as in Switzerland and the U.S.A. , and nowhere does the influence of capital in parliament manifest itself as powerfully as in these countries.

The power of capital is everything, the stock exchange is everything, while parliament and elections are marionettes, puppets. But the eyes of the workers are being opened more and more, and the idea of Soviet government is spreading farther and farther afield, especially after the bloody carnage we have just experienced. The necessity for a relentless war on the capitalists is becoming clearer and clearer to the working class.

Whatever guise a republic may assume, however democratic it may be, if it is a bourgeois republic, if it retains private ownership of the land and factories, and if private capital keeps the whole of society in wage-slavery, that is, if the republic does not carry out what is proclaimed in the Programme of our Party and in the Soviet Constitution, then this state is a machine for the suppression of some people by others.

And we shall place this machine in the hands of the class that is to overthrow the power of capital. We shall reject all the old prejudices about the state meaning universal equality—for that is a fraud: as long as there is exploitation there cannot be equality. The landowner cannot be the equal of the worker, or the hungry man the equal of the full man.

This machine called the state, before which people bowed in superstitious awe, believing the old tales that it means popular rule, tales which the proletariat declares to be a bourgeois lie—this machine the proletariat will smash. So far we have deprived the capitalists of this machine and have taken it over. We shall use this machine, or bludgeon, to destroy all exploitation. And when the possibility of exploitation no longer exists anywhere in the world, when there are no longer owners of land and owners of factories, and when there is no longer a situation in which some gorge while others starve, only when the possibility of this no longer exists shall we consign this machine to the scrap-heap. Then there will be no state and no exploitation.

Such is the view of our Communist Party. I hope that we shall return to this subject in subsequent lectures, return to it again and again.

Speech Delivered: 11 July, 1919 
First Published: Pravda No. 15, January 18, 1929
Source: Lenin’s Collected Works, 4th English Edition, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1972 Volume 29, pages 470-488