The purpose of this class is to begin developing a Marxist-Leninist understanding of the state. This introductory framework will serve as the foundation for comprehending, more completely and more specifically, Lenin’s theory of the state. By understanding the state and the problems it poses to workers and the oppressed in our struggle for liberation, comrades will begin developing an understanding of why revolution—and not reformism—is a historical imperative.
*Note: Print out or have lyrics to Dead Prez’s “Police State” accessible ahead of time.
Learning objectives and outcomes:
At the end of class 1, comrades will:
- Have an introductory understanding of Lenin’s theory of the state as he developed it from the work of Marx and Engels
- Have an introductory framework for engaging the entirety of Lenin’s The State and Revolution
- Understand the function of the police and military
- Comprehend the relationship between class society and the state
Music for thought:
Before engaging in the readings and discussion, listen to the song “Police State,” by Dead Prez. As you listen to the song, think and write about:
- How does Dead Prez define the state? Is it similar to or different from Lenin?
- How do they talk about race and racism?
- How do they view the police?
- What, to you, is the most compelling or interesting phrase they use to describe oppression and resistance?
- Who are some people who you could use this song with to agitate against police terror, capitalism, and racism?
From Revolution Manifesto:
- What is the State? An Overview, by Jane Cutter (pp. 3-6)
- Preface to the First and Second Editions, by Lenin (pp. 99-100)
- Chapter 1: Class Society and the State, by Lenin (pp. 101-116)
For “What is the State? An Overview:”
- How does the bourgeois state prevent the oppressed from achieving liberation?
- How does the state protect the interests of the ruling class?
- Can you think of current examples of the state using its power to repress the aspirations of workers and oppressed peoples?
- Is the state an eternal institution? Why or why not?
For “Preface to the First and Second Editions:”
- What does Lenin mean by “opportunism” and “social chauvinism?”
- What are the problems with opportunism and social chauvinism?
- Are opportunism and social chauvinism problems today? Why or why not?
For “Chapter 1: Class Society and the State:”
- How do opportunists use Marxism? Can you think of other revolutionaries to whom this happens? (p. 101)
- Why does the state come into being, according to Engels? (p. 102)
- What does it mean to say that class antagonisms are irreconcilable? Does it mean that they are impossible to solve?
- Why are the standing army and the police so important for state power?
- What are some ways that the state is as an instrument to exploit workers and oppressed people? (p. 107-110)
Intervening in local struggles to better direct the struggles.
Ask comrades to consider the significance for organizing of the differences between the
opportunism Lenin was referring to, an opportunism more conscious of Marxism, and the
opportunism of today that tends to not be based on a rejection of Marxism but stems from the
void created by the absence of Marxism.
- This activity requires at least 3 people, but it could be done with many more. The activity should take about thirty minutes.
- Divide your selves into three groups of at least one, but up to five. The three groups represent three orientations: the opportunism Lenin referred to, an opportunism that is conscious of Marxism, and a contemporary opportunism that is ignorant or unaware of Marxism. This can manifest in any struggle.
- Your goal is to win the people over to the Marxist proposal for action that has a correct understanding of the state.
- In your groups: Discuss what your political program is, and then think about how you will win the former Sanders’ supporters to your side. What kind of campaign might you create? What slogans might you develop?
- After completing your campaigns and outlining your orientations, then present them to the other groups.
- This activity should facilitate an understanding of the political landscape confronted by communists and how best to navigate it in times of great recruitment opportunity. It will also help comrades develop a better appreciation of the thought process of our class enemies.