A workers’ state means power to the people

The following is an overview by Chairman Omali Yeshitela of V. I. Lenin’s pamphlet, The State and Revolution. This edited presentation was made at the African People’s Socialist Party’s Cadre Intensive School on July 9, 2014 in St Petersburg, Florida.

The State and Revolution workshop was part of the ideological and theoretical training at the Cadre Intensive School. The 30-day Intensive is a strategical effort by the Party to steel it’s cadre in science, and a materialist worldview.

Anarchy is a philosophy. It is opposition to the State. Destruc­tion of the State.

They don’t believe in the State at all. There were people in Rus­sia who were anarchists who were organized as anarchists.

They recognize some things that we recognize about the State. It is coercive.

It is an institution that is based on suppressing people, forcing people to do something they don’t want to do. Any State is like that.

Anarchists hate the State. They recognize that it’s the State, the police, the government that imposes regulations, forcing us to do things we don’t want to do.

It makes you pay taxes. All these people starving and the capitalist State—which produces homelessness—functions as an apparatus to protect the status quo.

The police put the homeless people in jail for being homeless. They won’t allow them to be in public spaces and make it illegal to be homeless. So anarchists hate the State.

Do you hate the State? Yeah, we hate the damn State.

The State of the bourgeoisie must be destroyed

The State is oppressive.

But the difference between us and anarchists is that while the anarchists are constantly working to destroy the State, they don’t have the ability to make a differ­entiation between the State of the oppressor that protects capital­ism and a State that will come as a consequence of workers over­throwing capitalism.

That State would be an appa­ratus of coercion and oppression temporarily put in place to op­press those who have been doing the oppression from the begin­ning—the ruling class.

The capitalist-colonialists are the ones with experience, exper­tise and connections around the world.

So if you just take power from the ruling class and say it’s over, the next thing you know, there will be armies rolling up on you from next door. You are going to have to fight.

The bourgeoisie becomes more vicious after it’s been over­thrown.Look at what happened in Chile after socialists were voted into power.

People cheered all over South America after Salva­dor Allende was voted into gov­ernment. Chinese premier Chou En-Lai told them, you might control the government, but you don’t control the State because the same State is in place now that was there when you got there.

You got elected in their appa­ratus. The State of the bourgeoi­sie must be destroyed. Destroy it. Smash it. Wipe it out. We are with the anarchists on that.

But there must be a workers’ State that takes its place, and the workers’ State is the socialist State. The socialist State is the orga­nization of the workers in arms.

Socialism can be defined as the early stage of communism. If you are a Catholic, it might be called purgatory—existing be­tween capitalism and before you get to heaven, which is commu­nism.

It is that stage where the State still exists, but it is now in the pos­session of the working class who are no longer oppressed because they control the State.

I told you the story about Cuba. Before the revolution, the poor people in Cuba were always in the church.

Then after the revolution, be­cause the workers had control of the State, the bourgeoisie were always in the church. That’s be­cause they had no power and could not predict the future.

The workers could predict the future because they had power. If they wanted houses they could build houses because they con­trolled the State.

Anarchy is petty bourgeois expression

The issue of the State is not a small question. This piece that we are reading called “The State” by Lenin is part of a struggle that he was involved in with other social­ists.

These were other people who were in the movement who claimed they wanted to see a rev­olution, but they had this messed up position on the State.

Anarchists have said that af­ter the revolution the first ones the communists are going to wipe out is the anarchists.

Yeah, that’s true because the anarchists will attack the State, the organization of the people that is absolutely necessary for trans­forming society.

They are anti-authority, which is a petty bourgeois expression.You don’t just walk into com­munism. You’ve got to overturn hundreds of years of institutions—educational and court systems, etc. You have to control the State apparatus.

So now instead, what you got is people breaking windows, try­ing to disrupt the process because they cannot make a distinction be­tween the State in the hands of the capitalist, slave-owning dogs and the slaves who have now overturned them and become ex-slaves because they have control of the State.

That’s what makes them ex-slaves because they have control of the State. If they didn’t have control of the State, they’d be pushed back into slavery.

The struggle against two wrong positions

Lenin was struggling against anarchists and against those who called themselves revolutionaries on the one hand.

On the other hand, he want­ed to deal with this position from Friedrich Engels, who worked with Marx and talked about the wither­ing away of the State—one of the principles that is part of Marxist understanding of historical mate­rialism.

When the workers overturn the bourgeois State, the working class comes to power.

We’ve affected the relations of production and overturned former relations of production, where the fundamental contradiction in capi­talist society between socialized production and private ownership is overturned.

How can you get people com­ing together to produce everything but they don’t own nothing? You need the State to validate that.

When these brothers tap on the window of a 7-11 with a 9mm to collect this is an attempt to achieve socialized ownership, but it’s an uninformed attempt.

Crime is often an expression of people, conscious or not, to achieve access to what we have produced socially but is owned privately by the bourgeoisie.

That’s why we say that crime is anything that challenges the monopoly of power and resources in the hands of the bourgeoisie.

There were those who said, don’t make struggle because Engels said the State will with­er away. So anarchists, on one hand, have no respect for author­ity, will not recognize the validity of the workers State, will be disrup­tive and are opposed to workers achieving State power.

On the other hand, commu­nists who say the State will wither away say you don’t have to do anything to take power.

The Party is the instrument to make revolution

What is the State? The State is this organization that protects the interests of the class that’s in power with instruments of coer­cion at its hand.

It is the prisons, the jails, the courts, the army, the police. That is the State.Revolutionaries understand that in order to come to power to change the world, we must have the instrument to make the revolu­tion.

What is the instrument through which we make the revolution? The Party.You got a bunch of people saying they want change but won’t join the Party.

The Party is necessary. It is the highest expression of the will of the people to make revolution.

Once the Party is organized and the Party overthrows a social system it has to have the instru­ment through which it can main­tain power in the hands of the workers and maintain construction of a new social system.

The State is that entity.

We don’t just adopt the State of the colonizer. We have to cre­ate a workers’ State.

That’s why when you look at what happened in the Continent of Africa with all these so-called revolutionaries, you are just see­ing people who adopted the same bourgeois State.

That State is exactly for that purpose. It doesn’t matter who the general or the police chief is, it’s oppressive.

The purpose is not just to debate but to seize power

Lenin is debating this argu­ment. Things are heating up and it’s not an abstract academic question. What are you gonna do? It’s a decisive moment in history for those of us who have to be orga­nized to change the world.

That’s why Lenin was debat­ing these guys. In 1917, in the heat of the revolutionary activity, like here in St. Petersburg when the masses were in the streets and you pass out five leaflets and 100 people come to the meeting.

It was a moment in time when the masses were in motion.In 1917, the capitalist Kadets (Constitutional Democratic Party), liberal bourgeois entity, had come to power in Russia.

The Czar had been kicked out and there was still turmoil in the streets. The workers and commu­nists control the soviets through­out Russia, and they are making things happen on the streets.

They control the railroads, the armies and this thing called the government. So you have a situ­ation of dual power.

Debates happen in halls on a regular basis, but most people don’t know who Lenin is. The Bolsheviks know who he is. The revolutionary parties know him. Other movements in Europe know him.

So there’s this debate going on, and one of the people mak­ing this argument stands up and says, “None of us is prepared to seize power and govern at this moment.”

Then a voice at the back of the room says, “We are.”

That’s what this is about. We are preparing to be the ones in the back of the hall who stand up and say, “We are.”

That’s why we are here.

Lenin quotes a lot from En­gels, who was one of the com­munists who did the most work to define the State. He quotes Marx as well.

You should read the book, “The State and Revolution.”

Engels made these struggles about the State in an abstract way. Lenin is using Engels to defend his position and took the struggle places Engels didn’t go.

Why was it important? The ba­sis of writing it was not to quote Engels, but to deal with what had to be done to make a revolution.

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