The State and Revolution Quotes


The so-called Great Powers have long been exploiting and enslaving a whole number of small and weak nations. And the imperialist war is a war for the division and redivision of this kind of booty.


The imperialist war to which Lenin refers is World War I aka the Great War aka the War to End All Wars. Where others saw a battle for the security of democracy against the incursion of tyranny and despotism, Lenin boils it down to its historical essence: just another case of the big guys fighting to divvy up the little guys amongst them. Turns out the war was neither great nor did it end all wars forever. The only world leader who called it right was Lenin.

A standing army and police are the chief instruments of state power.


As a Marxist theoretician, Lenin might be expected to suggest that will of the people was the chief instrument of the state’s power. That he recognized the reality of the situation reveals the pragmatic side of political astuteness. This truth holds the center together regardless of the ideology surrounding it: the means of winning the hearts and minds of the people is no power at all without an army and police to keep people in line.

The state is the product and manifestation of the irreconcilability of class antagonisms.


The type of government that rises to power in any nation is a direct consequence of the nature of economic inequality. This should not be taken to mean that when a type of government has remained stable for centuries that it has solved the problem of class conflict. A repressive government enforcing a status quo constructed upon class antagonism can be quite successful for a prolonged period precisely because they are so good using that division to create distractions from their own culpability. At the same time, such a repressive regime will inevitably foster a revolutionary movement that is ultimately manifested in a brand new state which becomes the product of the attempt to reconcile existing class antagonism. The success or failure of that process determines the type of government that evolves.

...public power exists in every state; it consists not merely of armed men but also of material adjuncts, prisons, and institutions of coercion of all kinds.


It is not just the army and the police which represents the violence used by the state to coerce or enforce. External to those more obvious entities whose violence appears required and justified are a host of examples of institutionalized violence existing at least in part for the purpose of subtly engendering the acceptance of violence as inextricably intertwined with authority and force which becomes linked in the mind to the citizens to the presiding state authority.

...all revolutions which have taken place up to the present have helped to perfect the state machinery, whereas it must be shattered, broken to pieces.


In other words, revolutions throughout history have not really been revolutions so much as mere insurrection. It’s cyclical system of incremental progress at best. Those who arise and revolt against their master haven’t displaced them and torn the system down to rebuild it anew; they have merely improved upon the weakness in the system which facilitated their successful insurrection in the first place.

Imperialism--the era of bank capital, the era of gigantic capitalist monopolies, of the development of monopoly capitalism into state-monopoly capitalism--has clearly shown an unprecedented growth in its bureaucratic and military apparatus in connection with the intensification of repressive measures against the proletariat.


Lenin is merely suggesting that capitalist economics expands well beyond the financial sector to embrace the entirely of the democratic process. Free enterprise must be protected by the machinery of imperialism rather than the other way around as might be expected. Thus, Lenin is suggesting that democracy exists to protect capitalism which means, of course, that wars fought in the name of democracy are really wars to protect—or, more likely—expand the reach of capitalist interest.

Democracy for an insignificant minority, democracy for the rich--that is the democracy of capitalist society.


That capitalist interest that democracy exists to protect. Whose interests is it really designed for, anyway? The extensions of rights and freedom under democracy are designed for the purpose of protecting imperialist gain. Who gains from imperialist measures? Certainly not the majority. Lenin is basically suggesting here in the early part of the 20th century that democracy is really about using 99% of the population to protect the money wealth owned by 1%.

Freedom in capitalist society always remains about the same as it was in the ancient Greek republics: freedom for the slave-owners.


As he made clear earlier, Lenin does not view revolutions as particularly revolutionary. Several millennia separates the planet’s first attempts at democratic rule from its second try. Despite the lessons learned from the failures that mark those thousands of years, the changes remain cosmetic. They aren’t called slave-owners in the 20th century American version; they are called CEOs and bosses, but they still believe that if you are an employee, your time belongs to them.

...the oppressed are allowed once every few years to decide which particular representatives of the oppressing class shall represent and repress them in parliament!


This quote is especially amusing. Every two or four years, just about everyone makes essentially the same statement using slightly different wording but conveying the same meaning: politicians don’t really work for the interests of the voters. The amusing part is that half of those making voicing that complaint share a political ideology which has for more than a century demonized anything Lenin ever said only because it was Lenin who said it.

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