State Theory After Lenin

Socialism 2015

July 02, 2015

Almost 100 years ago, Lenin argued that socialism was impossible unless the states that guard capitalism were overturned. Since then, capitalist states have grown to exert frightening levels of control and lethality (e.g. the New Jim Crow and drones) while taking responsibility for an unprecedented range of useful functions (e.g. public education and health regulation). From Bernie Sanders to the Muslim Brotherhood to Hugo Chavez to the Tsipras wing of Syriza, a wide spectrum of political actors believe these states can be cajoled, coerced or converted into making radical change. Yet the experience of the deep state counterrevolution in Egypt, enduring bureaucracy in Venezuela, and the austerity-enforcing EU state structures cast doubt on these hopes. Does a break with capitalism require breaking up the state? If so, how does that theoretical starting point impact socialist strategy for class struggle and political organization today?

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