The State and its Abolition (Part 1)
I. The state of capitalism
The popular conception of the state is that of a kind of neutral pendulum which can be swung in different directions in accordance with the philosophy of the dominant political party. In other words, that the degree of authority which the state institutions wield, the levels and methods of coercion and oppression which these institutions employ in practising this authority, and whether this authority is put to "good" or "bad" purposes (e.g. whether it is used to inaugurate or maintain a "Welfare State" or a police state dictatorship) is determined by the aims and aspirations, or indeed, sometimes even by the personalities within the party which constitutes the government.
To a certain extent this is true. Outwardly, the modern state takes many different forms, and is coercive and oppressive to varying degrees. The totalitarian state, whether of the "left" or "right", is undoubtedly more oppressive than the "democratic state" in as much as those who control it (regardless of how they came to do so) have to rely more heavily on the services of the police and army, the political allegiance of its "officials" and subjugation of its citizens.
To view the state merely as a passive, autonomous body, ready to be put to the service of "good" or "bad", to be steered in the "right" or "wrong" direction or to be manipulated at will by political philanthropists for the benefit of the population, or by tyrants for the benefit of themselves, is to imagine that the state exists in a kind of social and political void. It is to accept the assertion that the state (i.e. the armed forces, police, legal system, civil service, etc.) acts in isolation, uninfluenced by the social conditions and social relations within which it operates.
No matter what its form, or how its government is chosen, the state does not, and can not, act in isolation. It is a machine for the domination of one class by another, an instrument of class rule, and therefore can not be neutral, passive or independent.
ORIGIN OF THE MODERN STATE
The modern capitalist state with its armies, its police forces, its laws, rules and regulations for the defence of property, did not appear suddenly overnight. Neither is it the reflection of some innate propensity of the human race to be aggressive and unco-operative, as the more "holy" apologists of capitalism maintain. The state has neither a natural nor unnatural existence; it is the product of class conflicts, and as such, it has been forged in the social furnace of the three great epochs of class-divided society, chattel slavery, feudalism, and finally the world-wide system of society which we know today, capitalism.
It was the division of society into classes - a property owning minority and a propertyless majority - which gave rise to the need for the state. For, in order for the dominant class to maintain its property rights and to appropriate the surplus product of the dominated class, it was essential that it had at its command a coercive apparatus to enforce its laws and regulations. This coercive apparatus, consisting of a certain group of people set apart from society and engaged solely in ruling, administering, subjugating and oppressing in the interests of the monopolising class, is called the state.
As the social relations of equality and freedom (arising from the common ownership of the instruments of production) of primitive society were eroded, and replaced with the new class relations of owner/non-owner, exploiter/ exploited, robber/robbed, the need for the minority class of property owners to develop and maintain a permanent apparatus of coercion took root. Chattel slavery which evolved from primitive society, was the first definite form of class society, and it is in this epoch in which we find the embryonic form of the modern state. After chattel slavery came feudalism, in which the class relations changed from that of slave-owners and slaves, to feudal landlords and peasant serfs. The class rule of a minority did not change, however, and the consequent domination and dependence of the majority of people in society remained.
Historically, just as chattel slavery gave way to feudalism and ushered in the rule of the class of landlords, so feudalism gave way to capitalism and inaugurated the rule of a new class of exploiters — the owners of capital. As world trade developed on an increasingly grand scale and the circulation and power of money grew with the exchange of commodities, the capitalists superseded the power of the feudal landlords and became the new ruling class. This economic revolution, in which the capitalists instigated their own mode of production, did not involve the disruption of the state to any great degree, as the function of the state is to protect property, irrespective of who owns it or whether that property is composed of land, people, factories or machinery.
As capitalism advanced against the feudal system and became decisively established, so also did the social conditions and relations which enabled it to flourish. Capitalist society proclaimed the new ideals of freedom, liberty and equality for everyone before the law. It proclaimed the right of property ownership to be the right of every member of society. And it maintained that the dark old days of slavery and serfdom, in which "the sword ruled without shame and club-law prevailed", when the division of society into classes severed the majority from the means of life and subjected it to the tyranny of a minority class of parasites, were no more.
Capitalist society declared that the state had miraculously conjured away the reasons for its own existence and had been transformed from an instrument of domination and coercion into the guarantor of this new-found liberty and freedom. Such were, and still are, the ideals of capitalist society. The reality for the majority of people was, and still is, very different. Even a momentary glance at the history of capitalism should suffice to convince any member of the working class who has emerged from the capitalist indoctrination clinics (schools, colleges, universities, to use their official titles) with their thought processes still relatively untwisted what this liberty and freedom meant in practice. "Liberty" meant the liberty of the capitalists to legally exploit and rob the new class of (wage) slaves, the working class. And "freedom" meant the freedom of the workers to starve if they didn't fancy the idea of being exploited or robbed. Or, if they protested that "the game wasn't straight" the freedom to be beaten, jailed or transported by the "guardians" of freedom — the laws and forces of the capitalist state.
From the time when the last peasant serfs were being forced from the land and herded into factories as wage-labourers up until the present-day, capitalism has not changed to any significant degree. Outwardly some changes have occurred, in that the capitalist system now dominates over almost the entire face of the earth, while its division into national segments has become more decisive. But the essential dynamic of capitalist production, the extraction of surplus value (profit) by means of the wages system, and the function of the state within each national segment in protecting property (regardless of the nationality of the owner) and perpetuating the rule of the dominant capitalist class has remained unchanged.
In capitalism (including those countries like Russia, China and Cuba in which the ruling elite performs the role of private capitalists) society is divided into two classes. Those who monopolise the means of wealth production and distribution, i.e. land, factories, mills, offices, transport facilities and raw materials etc. (the capitalist class) and who constitute an insignificant minority, and those who own no substantial property (the working class) and who make up the vast majority of the world's population. Capitalism is a world-wide system of production for profit. In other words, the capitalist class, as owners of the means of production, will only allow production to take place on condition that they can sell what is produced on the market to realise a profit. A number of things result from this, which render the exploitation of the working class and its oppression by the state, inevitable.
The fact that production in capitalism is geared towards making profits means the very foundations of capitalism rest on the exploitation of the working class. This exploitation of the workers in capitalism is accomplished by means of the "money trick" — the wages system. As the working class throughout the world has no substantial property of its own, in order to live its members have to sell their mental and physical energies (their labour power) to the capitalists in return for a wage or salary. In effect, this means the capitalist class has virtual control over the lives of the workers. The reason for this is that not only do the capitalists control the activities of the workers during the period for which they have bought their labour power (the hours of employment) but how the workers spend their "free" time is also almost entirely dependent on whether they are earning a wage or not, how much they earn, the number of hours they work, how hard and fast they are compelled to work and the nature of their work. In short, the lives of the workers are enslaved and shackled by the iron chains of capital.
After the capitalists have agreed to purchase the labour power of the workers, they set them to produce wealth in the form of goods or services. When this wealth has been produced however, it does not belong to the workers but passes into the possession of the owners of the means by which it was produced. The workers have no say in what happens to the wealth they have created, where it goes or who receives it, but merely receive a part of the value of this wealth in the form of wages and salaries. Of course, the capitalist class do not keep the wealth created by the workers for themselves. They have to sell it on the market, and, as the goal of production in capitalism is to realise profits, at a higher price than what their accumulated costs of production were. In this way the capitalist class is able to amass great fortunes, whilst the workers, who have to give back their wages to the class of capitalists as a whole when they buy the things they need to stay alive, are compelled to repeatedly sell themselves by the hour, week or month.
This legalised exploitation of the workers in the process of capitalist production is only the tip of the iceberg. Capitalism, because it is a system which puts the profits of a few before the needs of the many, oppresses hundreds of millions of people throughout the world by denying them access to the things which they need in order to live.
It denies tens of millions of men, women and children every year their right to life, by condemning them to systematic death by starvation, whilst at the same time destroying or discouraging the production of food, in order to maintain profit levels. In the "richer" countries capitalism lets people die of hypothermia and other curable diseases simply because the production and distribution of heating fuels, the building and equipping of hospitals and the developing and manufacture of medicines is manacled by the dictates of profitability. Production for profit condemns many more millions to the squalor of living in slums, yet building workers are thrown out of work in their thousands and rendered useless.
LAW AND ORDER IN PRACTICE
Irrespective of whether a government in capitalism is democratically elected or not, or whether it describes itself as Conservative or Communist, Social Democratic or Socialist, Labour or Liberal or whatever it is in office to run capitalism. Consequently, regardless of any good or bad intentions its members may or may not have had, it has no choice but to act against the interests of the working class, by wielding the forces of the state in the interests of capital.
Within each national segment of capitalism, the apparatus of the state, at every level, is staffed by personnel charged with the maintenance of the capitalist social order. This personnel comprises the police, army and navy, judiciary and legal system, prison staff, civil service and the "education" system, each in its turn, playing a part in making sure the working class constitutes a docile, indoctrinated and exploitable army of wage labour for the capitalists to feed off. "Ah!" protest the apologists of capitalism, "but they all play their part in maintaining law and order and ensuring that we can all sleep peacefully in our beds at night." Indeed they do maintain "Law and order", but what do these cherished words mean in practice?
Law and order means preserving stability in a society based upon class ownership of the means of life. It means people living on the streets of cities in every country in the world, because capitalism can't provide houses for them. It means houses remain empty because it is "unlawful" for people to occupy them. It means that people throughout the world go hungry and cold because it is "unlawful" for them to take food and heating materials from the shops and stores. Law and order means the right of a minority class of parasites to monopolise the resources of the earth, and legally to rob and exploit the rest of the human race.
A society based upon production for profit requires a police force because it produces criminals, by forcing people to steal, rob and kill in order to live or in order to "prove themselves" in its jungle of social and political madness. The construction and building of armies and navies, far from being capitalism's anathema, are its life blood, because it is a system divided into national segments, the capitalists of which are in constant conflict, a conflict which inevitably breaks out from time to time in open violence, over markets, resources, land and cheap labour forces from which they can wring their profits.
Capitalism needs "Law and order" to survive because it is riddled with contradictions and insoluble problems. It has long outlived its usefulness in the history of the human race and should be replaced with something new — socialism.
THE END OF THE STATE
Socialism will be a society in which there will be no place for governments, armies, police forces or any of the other oppressive institutions required by capitalism. In socialism the means of production and distribution of wealth will be held in common by society, enabling production to be carried on with the sole purpose of satisfying the needs of human beings. This means that, for the first time in the history of the human race, society will be in a position to eradicate forever the conditions of poverty, want, fear and insecurity, along with violent, aggressive beings which these conditions breed.
A society which caters for the needs of its members, because its members will be in control, will not need to set above itself a group of people to rule over it and dictate its actions. When all freely avail themselves of the wealth freely created there will be no need for policemen to stand guard over it to prevent people taking what they need from what they produce.
Socialism will not require the services of armies and navies because competition between the world's population will be replaced by co-operation and an understanding that the material needs of people in one part of the world are the needs of people the world over.