The Vulgarisation of Marxism by the Opportunists: The State and Revolution

by Vladimir Lenin

The question of the relation of the state to the social revolution, and of the social revolution to the state, like the question of revolution generally, was given very little attention by the leading theoreticians and publicists of the Second International (1889-1914). But the most characteristic thing about the process of the gradual growth of opportunism that led to the collapse of the Second International in 1914 is the fact that even when these people were squarely faced with this question they tried to evade it or ignored it.

In general, it may be said that evasiveness over the question of the relation of the proletarian revolution to the state–an evasiveness which benefited and fostered opportunism–resulted in the distortion of Marxism and in its complete vulgarization.

To characterize this lamentable process, if only briefly, we shall take the most prominent theoreticians of Marxism: Plekhanov and Kautsky.

1. Plekhanov’ s Controversy with the Anarchists

Plekhanov wrote a special pamphlet on the relation of anarchism to socialism, entitled Anarchism and Socialism, which was published in German in 1894.

Georgi Plekhanov

In treating this subject, Plekhanov contrived completely to evade the most urgent, burning, and most politically essential issue in the struggle against anarchism, namely, the relation of the revolution to the state, and the question of the state in general! Continue reading

The Economic Basis of the Withering Away of the State: The State and Revolution

by Vladimir Lenin

Marx explains this question most thoroughly in his Critique of the Gotha Programme (letter to Bracke, May 5, 1875, which was not published until 1891 when it was printed in Neue Zeit, vol. IX, 1, and which has appeared in Russian in a special edition). The polemical part of this remarkable work, which contains a criticism of Lassalleanism, has, so to speak, overshadowed its positive part, namely, the analysis of the connection between the development of communism and the withering away of the state.

1. Presentation of the Question by Marx

From a superficial comparison of Marx’s letter to Bracke of May 5, 1875, with Engels’ letter to Bebel of March 28, 1875, which we examined above, it might appear that Marx was much more of a “champion of the state” than Engels, and that the difference of opinion between the two writers on the question of the state was very considerable.

Engels suggested to Bebel that all chatter about the state be dropped altogether, that the word “state” be eliminated from the programme altogether and the word “community” substituted for it. Engels even declared that the Commune was long a state in the proper sense of the word. Yet Marx even spoke of the “future state in communist society”, i.e., he would seem to recognize the need for the state even under communism.

But such a view would be fundamentally wrong. A closer examination shows that Marx’s and Engels’ views on the state and its withering away were completely identical, and that Marx’s expression quoted above refers to the state in the process of withering away. Continue reading

End Game Looms Nearer in Afghanistan

People’s Voice, Vancouver Bureau

For years, Canadians have been told that “the Taliban are on the back foot” and that victory is near in Afghanistan. Most of us never believed it. Opinion surveys have consistently shown that the majority of Canadians want our troops brought home from this unwinnable war.

The latest news from Kabul confirms that the US-led occupation forces have utterly lost the battle for popular support. Contingents of NATO troops are being pulled out ahead of schedule, with the notable exception of Canada.

The spark for this development was lit when U.S. troops on clean-up duty tossed Korans into a burning pit at Bagram Air Base. Afghan workers rescued some singed pages, and before long, massive protests and riots shook the country. A swift round of apologies and promises by U.S. officials has done nothing to change the mood of an increasingly resentful Afghan public.

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A decade after taking on the “colonial burden”, the U.S. and its allies are paying the political price for an endless string of abuses, torture and killings committed in the name of “freedom”. Before long, the remaining occupation troops may be inside their giant fortified bases, chowing down on expensive western-style fast food. As in Iraq, they may be replaced by western “civilians”, but the signs of imperialist retreat are everywhere.

About 300 U.S. and other NATO advisors were withdrawn from Afghan ministries around Kabul in late February, as fears mounted for their safety. At the same time, the German military decided to speed up plans to abandon a 50-soldier outpost in the north of the country.

The French are also eager to get out since four of their troops were killed (and 16 wounded) by an Afghan army soldier, just weeks after three others were shot by another Afghan in uniform. Both the French and the Germans have also withdrawn civilian advisors from Afghan government institutions.

As Tom Engelhardt and Nick Turse wrote in the Tom Dispatch blog on Feb. 28, “Eleven years in, if your forces are still burning Korans in a deeply religious Muslim country, it’s way too late and you should go.” Instead, General John R. Allen, the war commander in Afghanistan, has directed that all U.S. military personnel undergo ten days of sensitivity training in the proper handling of religious materials.

Sensitivity, as Engelhardt and Turse point out, has not been an American strong suit. They point to revelations about the 12-soldier “kill team” that murdered Afghan civilians “for sport,” and then posed for photos with the corpses. Four U.S. Marines videotaped themselves urinating on the bodies of dead Afghans. A U.S. sniper unit proudly sported a Nazi SS banner in another incident, and a U.S. combat outpost was named “Aryan.” British soldiers were filmed abusing children. Eight shepherd boys, aged six to 18, were recently slaughtered in a NATO air strike in Kapisa Province in northern Afghanistan. Afghans have endured years of night raids by special operations forces that break into their homes, violating cultural boundaries and often killing civilians.

These actions have been protested by President Hamid Karzai, who has little power over his own country. And now, more than 30 protesters have been killed in demonstrations against the burning of the Korans.

The New York Times now reports that Afghanistan is “a religious country fed up with foreigners”. Laura King of the Los Angeles Times writes about the “visceral distaste for Western behaviour and values” among significant numbers of Afghans.

Engelhardt and Turse provide details of the blowback against the NATO forces. In a heavily guarded room of the Afghan Interior Ministry in Kabul, the bodies of a U.S. lieutenant colonel and major were recently found, each executed with a shot in the back of the head while at work.

Two other U.S. troops died outside a small American base in Nangarhar Province in the midst of a demonstration in which two protestors were also killed. An Afghan soldier gunned the Americans down and then escaped into the crowd.

In fact, Afghans in police and army uniforms have repeatedly attacked their “allies”. At least 36 U.S. and NATO troops have been killed this way in the past year, far beyond the level of “isolated incidents.” This includes the April 2011 case in which an Afghan air force colonel murdered nine U.S. trainers in a heavily guarded area of Kabul International Airport. His funeral was attended by 1,500 mourners.

The time for “apologies” by the U.S. occupation forces has long passed. Many Afghans are demanding local trials and the death penalty for the Koran burners.

Engelhardt and Turse conclude, “despite its massive firepower and staggering base structure in Afghanistan, actual power is visibly slipping away from the United States. American officials are already talking about not panicking (which indicates that panic is indeed in the air). And in an election year, with the Obama administration’s options desperately limited and what goals it had fast disappearing, it can only brace itself and hope to limp through until November 2012.

“The end game in Afghanistan has, it seems, come into view, and after all these fruitless, bloody years, it couldn’t be sadder. Saddest of all, so much of the blood spilled has been for purposes, if they ever made any sense, that have long since disappeared into the fog of history.”

For Canadians, this terrible tragedy includes 158 deaths among our own troops. When Afghanistan inevitably bids goodbye to NATO, our politicians will be asked: what was it all for? And there is no good answer.

*note: the above article is from the March 16-31, 2012, issue of People’s Voice, Canada’s leading communist newspaper. Articles can be reprinted free if the source is credited. Subscription rates in Canada: $30/year, or $15 low income rate; for U.S. readers – $45 US per year; other overseas readers – $45 US or $50 CDN per year. Send to People’s Voice, c/o PV Business Manager, 706 Clark Drive, Vancouver, BC, V5L 3J1.

Death Rays and the Like

The Guardian, Australia

by Rob Gowland

The scientific boys and girls who work for the US military, products of some of the best educational institutions in the USA, recently showed off their latest effort to move human civilisation forward: a “crowd control” pain ray. Rejoicing in the relatively innocuous name “Active Denial System”, the new US weapon sends out a high-frequency electromagnetic ray. In other words, it is designed to do to demonstrators what a microwave oven does to porridge.

And you don’t have to stick the demonstrator in the oven for it to be effective: the ray has a range of “seven football fields”. Whoopee!

The US military has been experimenting with death rays for decades – as well as nerve gasses, neutron weapons, space-mounted X-ray weapons, etc, anything that might kill people while leaving property untouched.

It seems this policy has finally met up with another US phenomenon: the public backlash against the increasingly obvious way US government policy is being run by and for big corporations, to the growing detriment of the working stiffs who actually create the country’s wealth.

The Pentagon is clearly looking towards the day when they will have to defend the rich and powerful from the multitude of “have-nots”, who are not going to be satisfied with promises and propaganda forever.

The US military already trains for “subduing” civil disturbances, disturbances where the enemy to be “subdued” are not wily foreigners in turbans but typical Americans carrying peace placards!

Turning a “non-lethal” heat ray on them is a not particularly big step from that point. During the “occupy Wall St” protests police in New York herded demonstrators into fenced in areas and then turned their pepper sprays on them at close range. Pepper spray – like rubber bullets and tazers – is also defined as a “non-lethal” weapon, despite instances where the use of such weapons has resulted in fatalities.

According to Pentagon tests, people hit with the heat ray feel an intense, unbearable heat. Turn a weapon like that on to a struggling mass of people, some angry some frightened, and you have a recipe for panic and trampling. Especially if the weapon is in the hands of a soldier who has been taught to regard demonstrators as “the enemy” and who has also been told “not to worry, it’s non lethal”.

Demonstrations are made up of people of all ages and states of health. What is the effect of this heat ray on pregnant women? On a foetus? On someone with a heart condition?

And why is the military being trained to use this weapon against demonstrators anyway? We are constantly being told that the right to demonstrate against the government and its laws is a fundamental measure of our democracy. Well, is it or isn’t it? Gunning down demonstrators with a heat ray doesn’t sound very democratic.

US Marine Colonel Tracy Taffola, showing off the weapon to the media, boasted that: “It could be used across the military spectrum of operations, perimeter security, crowd control, entry control points, you name it. I think our forces will figure out the many different applications that it would have.”

I think that is just what people are afraid of.

The British tabloid the Globe and Mail reports that “Various development versions of the heat ray have been tested for years. One was sent to Afghanistan – but never used – in 2010.” That raises interesting questions: why send it and then never use it? Is it perhaps not so “non-lethal” after all?

The Globe And Mail also reports that “Police departments have shown interest”. I’ll bet they have. When you see how enthusiastically they embraced tasers when those babies became available, shooting people umpteen times with the electric shock weapons, giving police a long-distance way of inflicting pain on demonstrators seems like a very unsafe thing to do.

Among the comments that appeared on US websites about this news report was this one from Socialist, who suggested that “now is indeed time to leave the country”: “My nephew will be going abroad to attend university, he can get a quality education for a tiny fraction of the price of an equivalent US education (taught in English). When he graduates, he will not be a debt slave to the banksters.”

When an on-line correspondent asserted that “There is no place on the face of the earth that you or anybody else will be safe from Obama’s military”,Socialist responded with the commonsense argument: “However in relative terms, there are places that are less violent [than the USA], where essentials of life (like health care, education, quality food and housing) are much more affordable. The Empire, even with drones and all the technology, does not have the power to control everything. The Empire is more fragile than we can imagine. The quality of life in the US is far lower than many would care to admit.”

That last point is very real and is becoming recognised by more and more Americans, as the endless propaganda they are fed – about living in the greatest country on Earth – falls apart in front of their eyes. Just the other day I saw a television news report in which US primary school teachers referred to the schools they taught in as “third world” standard.

Every day that big oil companies and big banks and filthy rich hedge funds get additional tax breaks from the US government while consumer prices continue to rise (not least at the petrol pump), is a day when Americans are forced to look at the reality of the world and to compare it with the laughable fantasy they are fed as “the American dream”. The number who don’t bother to vote is a sad indication of their widespread rejection of that dream as bogus.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon and the corporations it serves continue to develop their weapons to suppress any attempt at a popular uprising. For they know that the current situation cannot prevail forever. And they intend to be ready.

The question is: will the people be ready?

*note: The Guardian is the weekly newspaper of the Communist Party of Australia. You can find the original article on their website here.