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Abolition of the State

Letters to the Editors: Socialists and the State

 We have received the following letter from a Southampton reader. Our reply follows.

Southampton,
    August 22nd, 1937.

Dear Sir,

Marx's Conception of Socialism - Part 2

The second part of a talk transcribed from a recent conference. [Part 1 can be read here]

There is a useful book — David McLellan's Thought of Karl Marx, (Macmillan 1971) — which has a chapter in which has been brought together a number of Marx's references to socialist society. One of the points mentioned is Marx's view that in socialist society you would not have workers tied to one job all their lives, that it would be possible to change from one job to another. Marx used a very fanciful example. He said it would be possible to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening and criticise after dinner. But I don’t think we should take this literally. (I don’t know if he put in the hunting because Engels was fond of fox hunting, but the basic idea is alright.)

The Withering Away of the State - From Marx to Stalin

Socialists from Marx and Engels onwards have always held that with the establishment of Socialism the State will disappear. The State, which exists where society is divided into an owning class and a propertyless class, and is a coercive institution through control of which the dominant class imposes its will on the subject class, would lose its function when society ceases to be divided into classes. The Marxian view was put by F. Engels in his "Socialism, Utopian and Scientific":—

Marx Against the State

In 1988 Alan Carter wrote a criticism of Marx's views from what he called a "libertarian communist" position under the title Marx: A Radical Critique. His basic argument was that Marx's theories of history, economics and politics all paved the way for the emergence, not of a stateless, classless communist society, but of a new class society ruled by a new exploiting class similar to what was then about to collapse in east Europe and the USSR. His conclusion was that radical critics of capitalist society should actively oppose Marx's ideas.

Marx of course is not above criticism—and we have our own criticisms of some of the things he said and did—but to see him as nothing more than the precursor of a state capitalist society is inaccurate and unjustified.

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