The purpose of this class is to continue our historical-materialist investigation into the nature and significance of the state. In this class we turn to two examples, one general and one specific: pre-class societies and the Paris Commune of 1871. Both of these examples will help us understand how profoundly revolutions transform everyday lives. We will continue this investigation with an eye to how we can harness these insights in our day-to-day organizing.
Learning objectives and outcomes:
At the end of class 3, comrades will:
- Have an introductory understanding of pre-class societies and their significance for communist organizing today.
- Have a deep understanding of the lessons of the Paris Commune and why this event has so profoundly shifted communist practice.
- Possess a deeper understanding of the importance of the historically-determined process of abolishing the bourgeois state and the withering away of the proletarian state.
From Revolution Manifesto
- Living and Cooperating Without a State: Studying Pre-Class Society, by Karina Garcia (pp. 31-39)
- Chapter 3: Experience of the Paris Commune of 1871. Marx’s Analysis (pp. 129-148)
- “Marx’s reply to Zasulich“
- What do you remember taking away from last class? Write at least three things down.
- Share in pairs or as a whole group.
For “Living and Cooperating without a State:”
- Why has there never been a democratic state without class rule?
- Why did Engels spend so much time studying pre-class societies and what did he learn?
- What is the most significant take away from this reading for you?
- Read “Marx’s reply to Zasulich” together
- What does this tell us about how Marx viewed the transitions between different modes of production?
For “Chapter 3: Experience of the Paris Commune of 1871:”
- Why did the Paris Commune compel Marx and Engels to revise what they had written in the Communist Manifesto in 1948? What did they originally write?
- Think about the current radical political landscape. How might the distinction between utilizing the state and smashing the state be relevant?
- Sometimes Marxism and Leninism are caricatured as being concerned only with the industrial working class. Is this true?
- Lenin writes about the importance of alliances in the Paris Commune. What alliances should we be making today?
- In what ways did the Paris Commune smash the state machine?
- What were some reasons for the defeat of the Paris Commune?
- What are Lenin’s objections with parliamentarism? What should replace parliamentarism?
- How have opportunists distorted Marx’s observations on the Paris Commune? (pp. 142-145)
Music for discussion:
Listen to “Wear Clean Draws,” by The Coup, from their album “Party Music.” Find and read along with the lyrics also. Spend a few minutes reflecting on the following questions, and then discuss as a group:
- How does this song reflect the commitment to gender justice in pre-class societies?
- Lenin writes at length about how the Paris Commune transformed the everyday lives of workers, including their relationship with each other. How does this song relate to Lenin’s insights?
Praise Poem for the Paris Commune
- This activity should be done individually.
- Write down the aspects of the Paris Commune that Marx and Lenin celebrate. What do they praise about the event? Put it in your own words. (3 minutes)
- Think about what it would feel like to participate in an event like this, to hold state power and to radically transform your everyday life? (3 minutes)
- Next, create a short poem about the Paris Commune. You can only use the words that you have written in the previous 2 steps. (5 minutes)
- Take turns sharing your short poems.
- If time allows, create one class poem using the poems each comrade has written.