Thursday, 24 April 2014

Thoughts on the state

  • Elman Service -"In all of the archaic civilisations and historically known chiefdoms and primitive states the 'stratification' was . . . mainly of two classes, the governors and the governed - political strata, not strata of ownership groups." (quoted by Taylor)
  • "Anarchists are opposed to the state because it is not neutral, it cannot be made to serve our interests. The structures of the state are only necessary when a minority seeks to rule over the majority. We argue that the working class can create our own structures, organised and run from below upwards, to ensure the efficient running of everyday life."
  • "If power belongs to the state, then the state is a public body distinct from the population and, therefore, not an instrument of working class power. Rather, as an institution designed to ensure minority rule, it would ensure its position within society and become either the ruling class itself or create a new class which instrument it would be. As we discuss in section H.3.9 the state cannot be considered as a neutral instrument of economic class rule, it has specific interests in itself which can and does mean it can play an oppressive and exploitative role in society independently of an economically dominant class."
  • representative democracy=  the people select who decides for them and who carries it out.
  • anarchism= those who make the decisions are the ones who carry them out . This is direct democracy.
  • The state is not some neutral institution. The purpose of the state is to  protect capitalism and the other systems of oppression and to unify their interests. While it may punish some oppressors or grant concessions  it only does so to maintain the integrity of the whole system. The state is willing to sacrifice the short term interests of some oppressors for the long term interest of maintaining the status quo  in the long term. 
  • Capitalism needs the state to expand and continue.
  • The state will do benevolent things to cover it's oppressive heart.
  • capitalists control the state either by bribes or by making the state kowtow to the interests of the market."
  •  Noam Chomsky :"In capitalist democracy, the interests that must be satisfied are those of capitalists; otherwise, there is no investment, no production, no work, no resources to be devoted, however marginally, to the needs of the general population." (Turning the Tide,)
  • Capitalists and the state loves the ide of representative democracy. It makes it look benevolent, neutral, etc .
  • " By effectively disempowering the masses and centralising power into the hands of the few which make up the government, the very nature of the state ensures that it remains under elite control. This is why, from the start, the capitalist class has favoured centralisation."
  • anarchists seek a society in which those who make the decisions, carry them out too. That is to say direct democracy unmediated by bosses or capitalists or politicians.  We do not believe that representative democracy truly is democratic. The ability to chose who makes decisions for you is not empowering in any meaningful sense of that word.
  • The state has a vested interest in maintaining and expanding capitalism. Oppression cannot be ended until it's protector( the state) is ended. However oppression is not reducible to the state or capitalism.
  • Regardless of squabbling over words the mistake common to both the liberal and the Leninist is the belief that if their people get in control of the state then the state will become a benevolent institution whether that's a 'peoples republic' , a 'workers state' or just 'good government'. There cannot be a peoples state.  The problem is not who is in charge of the state ,the problem is the existence of states themselves- all states, everywhere and anywhere, past present and future.
  • Even if someone with  anti-capitalist beliefs got in power they could not change what the state is. Even if  an anarchist got in control of the state they could not make it  an institution for liberation. This much was proven when members of the Spanish anarcho-syndicalist union the CNT got into the republican government during the Spanish Civil war .

"the state is, as we discussed in section B.2.1, a tool of the capitalist class. This, it must be stressed, does not mean that they always see "eye to eye." Top politicians, for example, are part of the ruling elite, but they are in competition with other parts of it. In addition, different sectors of the capitalist class are competing against each other for profits, political influence, privileges, etc. The bourgeoisie, argued Malatesta, "are always at war among themselves . . . Thus the games of the swings, the manoeuvres, the concessions and withdrawals, the attempts to find allies among the people against the conservatives, and among the conservatives against the people." [Anarchy, p. 25] This means that different sections of the ruling class will cluster around different parties, depending on their interests, and these parties will seek to gain power to further those interests. This may bring them into conflict with other sections of the capitalist class. The state is the means by which these conflicts can be resolved.
Given that the role of the state is to ensure the best conditions for capital as a whole, this means that, when necessary, it can and does work against the interests of certain parts of the capitalist class. To carry out this function the state needs to be above individual capitalists or companies. This is what can give the state the appearance of being a neutral social institution and can fool people into thinking that it represents the interests of society as a whole. Yet this sometime neutrality with regards to individual capitalist companies exists only as an expression of its role as an instrument of capital in general. Moreover, without the tax money from successful businesses the state would be weakened and so the state is in competition with capitalists for the surplus value produced by the working class. Hence the anti-state rhetoric of big business which can fool those unaware of the hand-in-glove nature of modern capitalism to the state"

"As such, the state is often in conflict with sections of the capitalist class, just as sections of that class use the state to advance their own interests within the general framework of protecting the capitalist system (i.e. the interests of the ruling class as a class). The state's role is to resolve such disputes within that class peacefully. Under modern capitalism, this is usually done via the "democratic" process (within which we get the chance of picking the representatives of the elite who will oppress us least)."

"While recognising that the state protects the power and position of the economically dominant class within a society anarchists also argue that the state has, due to its hierarchical nature, interests of its own. Thus it cannot be considered as simply the tool of the economically dominant class in society. States have their own dynamics, due to their structure, which generate their own classes and class interests and privileges (and which allows them to escape from the control of the economic ruling class and pursue their own interests, to a greater or lesser degree). As Malatesta put it "the government, though springing from the bourgeoisie and its servant and protector, tends, as with every servant and every protector, to achieve its own emancipation and to dominate whoever it protects." [Op. Cit., p. 25]"

Thus, even in a class system like capitalism, the state can act independently of the ruling elite and, potentially, act against their interests. As part of its role is to mediate between individual capitalists/corporations, it needs sufficient power to tame them and this requires the state to have some independence from the class whose interests it, in general, defends. And such independence can be used to further its own interests, even to the detriment of the capitalist class, if the circumstances allow. If the capitalist class is weak or divided then the state can be in a position to exercise its autonomy vis-à-vis the economically dominant elite, using against the capitalists as a whole the tools it usually applies to them individually to further its own interests and powers.
This means that the state it not just "the guardian of capital" for it "has a vitality of its own and constitutes . . . a veritable social class apart from other classes . . . ; and this class has its own particular parasitical and usurious interests, in conflict with those of the rest of the collectivity which the State itself claims to represent . . . The State, being the depository of society's greatest physical and material force, has too much power in its hands to resign itself to being no more than the capitalists' guard dog." [Luigi Fabbri, quoted by David Berry, A History of the French Anarchist Movement, 1917-1945, p. 39]
Therefore the state machine (and structure), while its modern form is intrinsically linked to capitalism, cannot be seen as being a tool usable by the majority. This is because the "State, any State -- even when it dresses-up in the most liberal and democratic form -- is essentially based on domination, and upon violence, that is upon despotism -- a concealed but no less dangerous despotism." The State "denotes power, authority, domination; it presupposes inequality in fact." [The Political Philosophy of Michael Bakunin, p. 211 and p. 240] The state, therefore, has its own specific logic, its own priorities and its own momentum. It constitutes its own locus of power which is not merely a derivative of economic class power. Consequently, the state can be beyond the control of the economically dominant class and it need not reflect economic relations."

"This is due to its hierarchical and centralised nature, which empowers the few who control the state machine -- "[e]very state power, every government, by its nature places itself outside and over the people and inevitably subordinates them to an organisation and to aims which are foreign to and opposed to the real needs and aspirations of the people." If "the whole proletariat . . . [are] members of the government . . . there will be no government, no state, but, if there is to be a state there will be those who are ruled and those who are slaves." [Bakunin on Anarchism,

As such, it is important to stress that the minority whose interests the state defends need not be an economically dominant one (although it usually is). Under some circumstances a priesthood can be a ruling class, as can a military group or a bureaucracy. This means that the state can also effectively replace the economically dominant elite as the exploiting class. This is because anarchists view the state as having (class) interests of its own.
As we discuss in more detail in section H.3.9, the state cannot be considered as merely an instrument of (economic) class rule. History has shown numerous societies were the state itself was the ruling class and where no other dominant economic class existed. The experience of Soviet Russia indicates the validity of this analysis. The reality of the Russian Revolution contrasted starkly with the Marxist claim that a state was simply an instrument of class rule and, consequently, the working class needed to build its own state within which to rule society. Rather than being an instrument by which working class people could run and transform society in their own interests, the new state created by the Russian Revolution soon became a power over the class it claimed to represent (see section H.6 for more on this). The working class was exploited and dominated by the new state and its bureaucracy rather than by the capitalist class as previously. This did not happen by chance. As we discuss in section H.3.7, the state has evolved certain characteristics (such as centralisation, delegated power and so on) which ensure its task as enforcer of minority rule is achieved. Keeping those characteristics will inevitably mean keeping the task they were created to serve.
Thus, to summarise, the state's role is to repress the individual and the working class as a whole in the interests of economically dominant minorities/classes and in its own interests. It is "a society for mutual insurance between the landlord, the military commander, the judge, the priest, and later on the capitalist, in order to support such other's authority over the people, and for exploiting the poverty of the masses and getting rich themselves." Such was the "origin of the State; such was its history; and such is its present essence." [Kropotkin, Evolution and Environment, p. 94]
So while the state is an instrument of class rule it does not automatically mean that it does not clash with sections of the class it represents nor that it has to be the tool of an economically dominant class. One thing is sure, however. The state is not a suitable tool for securing the emancipation of the oppressed."

"anarchists reject the Marxist definition and theory of the state. For Marxists, "the state is nothing but a machine for the oppression of one class by another." While it has been true that, historically, it is "the state of the most powerful, economically dominant class, which, through the medium of the state, becomes also the politically dominant class, and this acquires the means of holding down and exploiting the oppressed class," this need not always be the case. The state is "at best an evil inherited by the proletariat after its victorious struggle for class supremacy," although it "cannot avoid having to lop off at once as much as possible" of it "until such time as a generation reared in new, free social conditions is able to throw the entire lumber of the state on the scrap heap." This new state, often called the "dictatorship of the proletariat," would slowly "wither away" (or "dies out") as classes disappear and the state "at last . . . becomes the real representative of the whole of society" and so "renders itself unnecessary." Engels is at pains to differentiate this position from that of the anarchists, who demand "the abolition of the state out of hand." [Selected Works"

"For anarchists, this argument has deep flaws. Simply put, unlike the anarchist one, this is not an empirically based theory of the state. Rather, we find such a theory mixed up with a metaphysical, non-empirical, a-historic definition which is based not on what the state is but rather what is could be. Thus the argument that the state "is nothing but a machine for the oppression of one class by another" is trying to draw out an abstract essence of the state rather than ground what the state is on empirical evidence and analysis. This perspective, anarchists argue, simply confuses two very different things, namely the state and popular social organisation, with potentially disastrous results. By calling the popular self-organisation required by a social revolution the same name as a hierarchical and centralised body constructed for, and evolved to ensure, minority rule, the door is wide open to confuse popular power with party power, to confuse rule by the representatives of the working class with working class self-management of the revolution and society"

"In summary, the Marxist theory of the state is simply a-historic and postulates some kind of state "essence" which exists independently of actual states and their role in society. To confuse the organ required by a minority class to execute and maintain its rule and that required by a majority class to manage society is to make a theoretical error of great magnitude. It opens the door to the idea of party power and even party dictatorship. As such, the Marxism of Marx and Engels is confused on the issue of the state. Their comments fluctuate between the anarchist definition of the state (based, as it is, on generalisations from historical examples) and the a-historic definition (based not on historical example but rather derived from a supra-historical analysis). Trying to combine the metaphysical with the scientific, the authoritarian with the libertarian, could only leave their followers with a confused legacy and that is what we find"


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