MARXIST INTERNET ARCHIVE  |  PRINCIPLES OF MARXISM-LENINISM

PRINCIPLES OF MARXISM-LENINISM

A STUDY COURSE

By W.B. Bland.

CLASS FOUR : THE STATE AND THE ROAD TO SOCIALISM

1. WHAT IS THE STATE?

As we saw in Class One, essentially the machinery of force by which one social class rules over the rest of the people.

 

2. WHAT ARE THE PRINCIPAL ORGANS OF THE CONTEMPORARY BRITISH STATE?

The monarch, the House of Lords, the House of Commons, the judiciary, the prison service, the armed forces, the police, the security services, the civil service, the Church of England, the BBC, the post office, the National Health Service.

 

3. WHICH OF THESE FORM THE KEY ORGANS OF STATE?

The armed forces, the police and the security services. This is because the key issue in politics is always physical power, and it is these three organs which possess physical power in the state.

4. EXPLAIN WHAT IS MEANT BY THE STATEMENT: "'PARLIAMENTARY DEMOCRACY' IS A FALSE FACADE WHICH CONCEALS THE DICTATORSHIP OF THE CAPITALIST CLASS".

British constitutional law lays down that supreme power is held, not by the House of Commons (the organ principally associated with the term 'parliamentary democracy') but by 'The Queen in Parliament', which is defined as the Queen together with the House of Lords and the House of Commons.

This means that the legislative power of the House of Commons (at present the sole elected organ of Parliament) is subject to the approval in most cases of the House of Lords and in all cases by the Queen. Furthermore, legislation is subject to 'interpretation' by the judiciary and can only be put into effect with the cooperation of the heads of the civil service.

However, the monarchy, the House of Lords, the judiciary and the heads of the civil service are not subject to democratic election. These posts are reserved for representatives of the capitalist class or the aristocracy (which has now merged with the capitalist class).

Furthermore, the heads of the armed forces and security forces -- key organs of state -- are also drawn from the upper class, and constitutionally they owe allegiance not to 'the people' or the House of Commons, but to the Queen. They are thus available to be used in the Queen's name to 'defend the Constitution' on behalf of the capitalist class.

Thus, 'parliamentary democracy' is a false facade which conceals the real character of the state as machinery which embodies the dictatorship of the capitalist class. Parliament is thus no more than a 'talking shop', the function of which is to deceive the masses into believing that it is 'their servant'.

5. IMAGINE THAT YOUR PARTY -- A PARTY OF GENUINE SOCIALISTS -- HAS WON A MAJORITY IN THE HOUSE OF COMMONS IN A GENERAL ELECTION.
WHAT STEPS WOULD YOU TAKE TO INTRODUCE SOCIALISM CONSTITUTIONALLY?.

Even the posing of this question requires considerable imagination. For the development of electoral opinion to the point where a general election might occur would clearly take a considerable time and would not go unnoticed by the capitalist class. Since this class will obviously use every weapon in its power to preserve its wealth, power and exploiting 'rights , -- in the name, of couse, of preserving 'freedom' and 'moral values' -- it would obviously take steps prior to the election (alteration of electoral laws and boundaries, outright banning of your party as 'subversive' etc.) to try to prevent such an embarrassing electoral result.

Let us assume, however, that as a result of some miracle of stupidity the capitalist class fails to take such preventive action.

Your party must then hope that the Queen will invite the leader of your party to form a government. It has long been customary for the monarch to invite the leader of the party with the largest number of seats in the House of Commons to become Prime Minister, but there is no constitutional obligation on her to do so.

Let us assume, however, that she takes this step and that the leader of your party selects his provisional Cabinet. Before these can take office as Ministers, they are required by constitutional law to take an oath of allegiance to the Queen. Since your party's electoral programme must have included pledges to abolish the undemocratic monarchy, the arrest of these Ministers on charges of perjury will be perfectly legitimate. And when sufficient of your MPs have been, quite legally, imprisoned, your party will no longer have a majority in the House.

Let us therfore assume another miracle -- that the capitalist class is too stupid to take constitutional measures to prevent your party from taking office and that it introduces legislation to socialise the principal means of production.

Such legislation can only be adopted with the approval of the House of Lords and the Queen (the latter can hold up legislation indefinitely), so that further miracles have to be imagined for your socialist programme to be put into legislation.

The capitalists may then appeal to the courts to rule that such legislation is unlawful, and a further miracle is required to make the upper class judges rule in favour of the socialist government.

Furthermore, the putting into effect of this socialist legislation requires the cooperation of the heads of the civil service, who are also drawn from the upper class, so that their cooperation would require a further miracle.

One must also assume yet another miracle. Constitutionally, the armed forces -- the heads of which are also drawn from the upper class -- may in case of 'emergency' at the request of the monarch establish martial law and rule dictatorially That reactionary military coups are not confined to distant countries was shown by the infamous Curragh Mutiny of 1914, which led to the partition of Ireland. Another miracle has, therefore, to be imagined to render the monarch and the armed forces inactive in this respect.

Such a wholesale series of miracles does not occur in real life, and it is clear that the concept of a constitutional transition to socialism is absurd.

6. WHAT IS A POLITICAL PARTY?

An organisation which serves the political interests of a social class (or of a section of such a class).

7. THE BRITISH PARLIAMENTARY SYSTEM HAS BEEN DESCRIBED AS ESSENTIALLY 'A TWO-PARTY SYSTEM'. WHAT IS THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THIS?.

The system is designed to give the electorate at an election a choice between two large parties. Both parliamentary parties (i.e., the collective MPs of each party) declare that they are not bound by decisions of their party conference, and both support the maintenance of a capitalist society. Thus, after an election, one of these parties forms Her Majesty's Government and the other forms Her Majesty's Opposition. When, after a period, a majority of the electors become dissatified with the government, this may be replaced at an election by the other party without any disturbance to the capitalst system.

The two-party system deliberately places great obstacles in the way of smaller parties: large deposits are forfeit where a candidate fails to obtain a certain proportion of the vote; there is no proportional representation, so that a party can obtain 49% of the national vote without securing the election of a single MP; TV propaganda is restricted to parties putting up a certain number of candidates: electors who are dissatisfied with both parties often vote for the one they regard as 'the lesser evil' on the grounds that it is impossible for a smaller party which they in fact support to form a government so that a vote for it would be 'wasted' and might even assist 'the greater evil' to win the election by 'splitting the vote'.

British 'parliamentary democracy' is clearly designed, as Marx expressed it, to give the electorate merely a choice as to which group of capitalist politicians shall misrepresent them for the next five years.

8. ANALYSE THE STATEMENT: 'THE BRITISH STATE IS A 'WELFARE STATE'

It must be remembered first that the social services had their origin, not in 'humanitarian concern' on the part of capitalists for their working people, but in the spread of epidemics from the slums to upper class residential quarters and in the discovery at the time of the Boer war that 50% of working class recruits to the army were medically unfit for military service.

Experience, therefore, forced the capitalists to realise long ago that the state, as the machinery of their rule, had to take such action in the field of social welfare as would ensure that the workers had the minimum of health necessary to produce surplus value for them and to fight in their wars.

This principle having been accepted, the aim of the capitalist class has been to keep the level of social services down to the minimum necessary to fulfil this purpose -- in particular, to see that benefits are significantly lower than average wages and that the working class itself pays for the social services it receives (by means of taxation, insurance contributions, etc.) out of wages, in many cases after a degrading 'means test'. These points have, of course, been influenced by the class struggle of the working class, but statistics show that the average working class family pays considerably more in taxation, contributions, etc., than it receives in terms of all the social services combined.

9. WHAT IS NATIONALISATION?

The taking over by the state of an enterprise previously under private ownership.

10. IS NATIONALISATION IN A CAPITALIST SOCIETY A SOCIALIST MEASURE?

Since the state in a capitalist society is the machinery of rule of the capitalist class, nationalisation in a capitalist society is in no way a socialist measure. It represents merely the transfer of an enterprise from ownership by a single capitalist to ownership by the capitalist class as a whole.

The most reactionary governments have carried out measures of nationalsation, affecting principally the fields of communications and fuel, which serve the capitalist class as a whole (e.g., the post office, railways, airlines, gas, coal, electricity, etc.).

The motive for nationalisation is to provide a cheap and efficient service in these fields for the benefit of the capitalist class as a whole, and nationalisation is usually carried out where private enterprise is using monopoly power to charge excessive rates to other capitalist firms or where private enterprise appears to be no longer capable of providing a reasonably efficient service in some field essential to the capitalist class as a whole.

When an enterprise is nationalised by the capitalist state, the former owners are usually generously compensated with interest-bearing state bonds, which enable them to continue to exploit the working class with their profits guaranteed by the state. The boards which manage such nationalised industries are dominated by members of the capitalist class (often, indeed, by their former owners, who then receive directors' fees in addition to interest). Thus, as workers in nationalised industries know from their own experience, the class struggle continues within them, but it is now necessary for the workers concerned to struggle not against a single private management, but against the capitalist state.

11. WHAT IS STATE MONOPOLY CAPITALISM?

With the development of monopoly capitalism, of imperialism, the state comes to be less and less the machinery of rule of the capitalist class as a whole, and to become increasingly subordinated to the dominant clique of monopoly capitalists, to become the state machine of the financial oligarchy.

The imperialist stage of development of capitalism also sees a great expansion of the state apparatus, both in the field of physical power and in that of the regulation of economic, political and cultural life.

This expansion is not 'socialist' in character. It is undertaken in the interests of monopoly capital, and Marxist- Leninists call this development by the name of state monopoly capitalism.

12. WHAT IS A CORPORATE STATE?

A concept of the state originally put forward by right-wing Catholic politicians. Its official aim is 'to abolish the class struggle' (in fact, of course, to repress it) by abolishing free collective bargaining between trade unions and employers' organisations. In a corporate state, 'negotiations' on wages, working conditions, etc., are carried out by 'corporations', composed of represenatives of the employers and of the state, together with 'workers' representatives'.

Moves by British governments to restrict free collective bargaining must be seen as moves in the direction of a corporate state, while propaganda in favour of 'workers' representation in industry' or 'workers' control' must be seen as pseudo-leftist propaganda directed towards the establishment of a corporate state.

13. WHAT IS FASCISM?

The open, terroristic dictatorship of a reactionary class (usually of monopoly capital) exercised through a para-military political party. The name is derived from the 'fasces' or bundle of sticks, the emblem of the Roman Empire which was taken over by the Italian fascists.

A fascist party is recruited principally from reactionary elements among the petty-bourgeoisie and lumpen-proletariat (degenerate, petty criminal strata of the working class). It is financed, as the situation demands, by capital and armed (usually unofficially) by their armed forces.

A fascist party directs its appeal demagogically to the most politically backward strata of the working people (calling itself by such names as 'national socialist') and of the petty bourgeoisie (claiming to be, for example, 'against monopoly'), but its main propaganda is based on appeal to racist and nationalist prejudices. Its function is to try to smash by force the organisations of the working class, and to replace the facade of 'parliamentary democracy' by an open dictatorship which strives to exert repressive control over every sphere of social life (totalitarianism) Within this dictatorship, the fascist party rules dictatorially (often in the name of an 'infallible leader') on behalf of the dominant class.

14. SINCE SOCIALISM CANNOT BE ESTABLISHED THROUGH 'PARLIAMENTARY DEMOCRACY', HOW CAN IT BE ESTABLISHED?

Only by socialist revolution, which requires the working class to build its own machinery of force, strong enough to defeat and destroy the machinery of force of the capitalist class.

15. ARE THERE CIRCUMSTANCES UNDER WHICH THE WORKING CLASS COULD ACHIEVE THE TRANSITION TO SOCIALISM PEACEFULLY?

This could occur, and has occurred, only in very exceptional circumstances -- where the capitalist class is temporarily without an effective state machinery of force capable of resisting seizure of political power by the working class (as in Finland and Hungary at the end of the First World War).

In theory, such a peaceful transition could occur in a country where the capitalist class possesses a state machinery of force, but finds itself isolated from foreign assistance and facing a working class machinery of force so overwhelmingly powerful as to make violent resistance appear pointless. In such circumstances the possibility could exist of peacefully 'buying out' the capitalist class.

This theoretical possibility of peaceful transition to socialism makes it clear that the stronger the machinery of revolutionary force built up by the working class, the greater is the possibility -- it is no more -- of a peaceful transition.

     CLASS ONE : THE DEVELOPMENT OF SOCIETY

General Definitions.

     CLASS TWO : HOW CAPITALISM WORKS (Part One)

The Commodity; Money; Labour Power...

     CLASS THREE : HOW CAPITALISM WORKS (Part Two)

The accumulation of Capital; Capial and Labour; Imperialism...

     CLASS FOUR : THE STATE AND THE ROAD TO SOCIALISM

The State; Parties; Socialism; fascism...

     CLASS FIVE : THE PARTY OF THE WORKING CLASS

Reformism; Class interests; Revisionism...

     CLASS SIX : THE NATIONAL QUESTION

Nations; Proletarian Internationalism...

     CLASS SEVEN : WAR

Civil wars; just and unjust wars; wars of national liberation...

     CLASS EIGHT : HOW  SOCIALISM  WORKS

What is Socialism; its class character...