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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dictatorship of the proletariat
In an introductory college course on Marxism this book is the one most likely to be recommended after the "Communist Manifesto" and Engels' "Socialism: Utopian and Scientific". This is partly because it is very readable and partly because it deals with the state both before, during and after the revolution - whereas Marx showed little interest in during and after...
Published on 11 Feb. 2011 by Derek Jones

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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The statist revolution
"The state and revolution" is Lenin's most well known work, perhaps alongside "What is to be done". It was written in 1917, and published in 1918. Strictly speaking, the work is unfinished. In a postscript, Lenin explains that the October revolution forced him to discontinue the work. Famously, he then adds that it's more satisfying to actually make a revolution, than to...
Published on 4 Mar. 2011 by Ashtar Command


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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dictatorship of the proletariat, 11 Feb. 2011
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Derek Jones - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The State and Revolution (Penguin Twentieth Century Classics) (Paperback)
In an introductory college course on Marxism this book is the one most likely to be recommended after the "Communist Manifesto" and Engels' "Socialism: Utopian and Scientific". This is partly because it is very readable and partly because it deals with the state both before, during and after the revolution - whereas Marx showed little interest in during and after.

Like Marx, Lenin portrays the state in capitalist society as the oppressive forces of the bourgeoisie. This applies as much to democratic states as any other. And what of the "proletarian revolution" that is to topple the bourgeois state? Marx mentioned the phrase only twice in all his writings, including a reference in the Manifesto. It was left to others (notably Lenin) to enlarge on revolution and the transition to communism. Lenin, unlike Marx an active revolutionary, was more conscious of the problem of how a revolution can arise from the masses, particularly in a backward country such as his native Russia. His answer was to portray the communist party as "the vanguard of the proletariat" in planning an executing revolution. Equally he seized on Engels' comments on the proletariat seizing control of state institutions followed by a period in which the state "dies out" (or withers away), to develop the notion of an indefinite period of the "dictatorship of the proletariat" whereby the communist party would rule on behalf of the proletariat and progressively liquidate all remnants of the old bourgeois order.

It is during the period of the dictatorship of the proletariat (length not discussed) that the state finally disappears. In an important passage Lenin writes that there may be "excesses" by "individuals" but these can be dealt with by "the armed people itself, as simply and readily as any crowd of civilised people, even in modern society, parts two people who are fighting, or intervene to prevent a woman from being assaulted." But once exploitation of the masses is removed then "with the removal of the chief causes, excesses will begin to `wither away'." Thereafter, according to Lenin, all that is needed in a classless society is "book-keeping and control". When all workers have learned to do this then "from this moment the need for any government begins to vanish."

Lenin seems to be suggesting that these functions could be carried out by workers en masse. Engels, however, had specifically attacked the Anarchists for wishing to destroy all authority, arguing that individuals had to be in charge of running enterprises even after a revolution. At any rate Lenin shared with Marx and Engels a very optimistic view of human nature. What distinguished Lenin, and makes this book so important, is the role he gives to communist parties as a "vanguard of the proletariat" and the significance of a "dictatorship of the proletariat".
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21 of 26 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars the totalitarian manifesto?, 17 Aug. 2001
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This review is from: The State and Revolution (Penguin Twentieth Century Classics) (Paperback)
Essentially, this is Lenin's interpretation of Marx's celebrated Communist Manifesto written in a way to win over all that read it. It is not suprising just how good Lenin's intentions were for the future of Russian when it was published at the time of the 1917 revolution and in the same breath, it is easy to tell what went wrong. He forgot about his own book, died too early and all too easily Stalin took over. The so called Leninism in this book is enlightening in how it advocates "complete democracy" to the "state", only by how the state "withers away" so that democracy no longer exists. A brilliant way of summing up Marxism for what it really was meant to be and not how it was distorted by what happened after Lenin's death with Stalinism. This is a must read for anyone with any sort of interest in Russian history and politics in general. In my opinion, it is easier to read than the communist manifesto and certainly must be read as an adjunct to it. The introduction by the brilliant Robert Service is wonderfully written and a joy to read.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Correcting an oversight ...., 3 Jan. 2005
This review is from: The State and Revolution (Penguin Twentieth Century Classics) (Paperback)
V. I. Lenin wrote this book in 1917, while he was hiding from the Russian government. Lenin pointed out that "The question of the relation of the state to the social revolution, and of the social revolution to the state, like the question of revolution generally, was given very little attention by the leading theoreticians and publicists of the Second International (1889-1914)". He wanted to correct that oversight, and that is probably the main reason why he wrote this book.
"The State and revolution" is a very short book, well structured and not difficult to read at all. Initially this pamphlet was going to have seven chapters, but Lenin didn't conclude the seventh, due to the outbreak of the Russian revolution. In the postscript to the first edition he explains that, saying that due to the reasons already explained the conclusion of the seventh chapters would have to be put off for quite a long time, but that all the same "It is more pleasant and useful to go through the `experience of revolution' than to write about it".
The main idea in "The State and revolution" is that the State is a product of the irreconcilability of class antagonisms, and an instrument for the exploitation of the oppressed class (a "special coercive force" that rules through violence). The State of the bourgeoisie will disappear, but only through a revolution that will take the people to the dictatorship of the proletariat. The proletariat (the working class) will become then the ruling class, "capable of crushing the inevitable and desperate resistance of the bourgeoisie, and of organizing all the working and exploited people for the new economic system. The proletariat needs state power, a centralized organization of force, an organization of violence, both to crush the resistance of the exploiters and to lead the enormous mass of the population -the peasants, the petty bourgeoisie, and semi-proletarians- in the work of organizing a socialist economy."
The dictatorship of the proletariat will be only a first stage in the path to Communism ("Then the door will be thrown wide open for the transition from the first phase of communist society to its higher phase, and with it to the complete withering away of the state"). According to Lenin, the necessity of systematically imbuing the masses with the idea of the necessity of violent revolution lies at the root of the entire theory of Marx and Engels. All throughout this book, Lenin cites and examines Marx and Engels' writings, in order to explain and support his own point of view.
The importance of Marxism for nowadays world has diminished enormously, but I advice you to read this book nonetheless. It is certainly not a grueling task, and it will allow you to understand better some notions that many Marxist leaders believed with all their hearts. Ideas drive men, and men make history. "The State and revolution" will help you to get acquainted with some of those ideas, and that is not a small feat.
Belen Alcat
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The statist revolution, 4 Mar. 2011
This review is from: The State and Revolution (Penguin Twentieth Century Classics) (Paperback)
"The state and revolution" is Lenin's most well known work, perhaps alongside "What is to be done". It was written in 1917, and published in 1918. Strictly speaking, the work is unfinished. In a postscript, Lenin explains that the October revolution forced him to discontinue the work. Famously, he then adds that it's more satisfying to actually make a revolution, than to simply write about one!

"The state and revolution" is Lenin's most "democratic" and "libertarian" work. He calls for a radically democratic state, a state which is no longer a state in the strict sense of that term, a semi-state based on the immense majority of the working people, which administers society directly without a bureaucracy, while overthrowing the tiny minority of exploiters and oppressors. In other words, Lenin calls for something akin to the Paris Commune. He hardly mentions the Bolshevik Party.

In reality, Lenin and the Bolsheviks created a very different kind of state after the October revolution. It became a one-party regime, over which workers and peasants had little or no influence. The state became centralized and all-powerful, expressing the interests of a new bureaucratic class. At no point did Soviet Russia resemble the radically democratic semi-state of Lenin's book "The state and revolution".

Some defenders of Lenin claim that this was due to the Civil War. Even if we accept this, it's still a refutation of Lenin, since he discusses civil war in "The state and revolution". There, he argues that the armed people could conduct such a war while still keeping the radically democratic form of their state. Besides, Lenin started building the authoritarian-centralized state immediately after the revolution, not waiting for the Civil War to start. The acting Russian government, the Council of People's Commissars or Sovnarkom, may have been nominally appointed by the soviets, but in practice it was a self-contained organ ruling by decree. For most of its existence, it consisted solely of Bolsheviks. Note also that the economic centralization started before the Civil War, with the Sovnarkom appointing the Vesenkha, the administrative organ charged with running Russian industry. The factory committees (organ of local workers' control) were soon squeezed out. Thus, Soviet Russia entered the Civil War with the centralized state apparatus already in place. Admittedly, the Sovnarkom was for a short period actually a coalition government between the Bolsheviks and the Left SRs, but this was mostly a tactic from Lenin's part. The entire logic of Bolshevism pointed in the direction of centralist, one-party rule. See all other writings by Lenin!

Did Lenin believe a single word of what he was saying in "The state and revolution"? I for one doubt it. The work simply doesn't fit the rest of the Leninist corpus. I think it was intended as a work of propaganda during a period when the Bolsheviks needed the support of the majority in the soviets. (I don't doubt that the October revolution as such had broad popular support.) Perhaps Lenin believed in his work as a kind of ideal. The actual dynamics, not just of the revolution and the civil war, but also of the attempts to create an entirely centralized, state-run economy, made the Bolsheviks stray from the course laid down in "The state and revolution".

In effect, they made a statist revolution.
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars required reading for leftists, 1 May 2006
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This review is from: The State and Revolution (Penguin Twentieth Century Classics) (Paperback)
Probably Lenin's most often positively-cited work, a close reading dispels a whole host of myths about the man and the bolshevik movement - the idea that they were dictatorial insurgents just itching to impose their will on the hapless Russians is put to rest in Lenin's emphasis on soviet democracy; on the other hand, the mystification of him as a "nice man" who was merely forced by circumstance to be nasty is exposed as a lie too, with many references made to the proletariat's use of the 'full repressive force' of the state to consolidate its victory. Here is 'Leninism' in its purest expression.

The main question of the book is that - unsurprisingly - of the State's role, first in class society and secondly after the Revolution. And it is principally a polemic, against the thinkers of the Second International whom Lenin believed had abandoned Marxism with their support for WWI. This accounts for the rather addictive style in which he writes, with the full force of his sarcasm on show. (Apart from any contributions to Marxism it made, this book is actually quite fun to read, especially considering the rather dry nature of the subject matter.)

There would be no point going through the various arguments in the book here - not only is Lenin his own best advert (and worst smear campaign), a thorough introduction from Robert Service explicates it all (even if, as is the way with bourgeois historians, he seems suspiciously dispassionate), with a lot of attention to the context in which the book was written - vital for the works of revolutionaries.

Those active in leftist politics have no excuse for not reading this. If you're interested in Lenin's thought, this is where to start. If you're an anarchist, flick through it so as better to fight the man rather than the caricature. If you're a social democrat, though, you may find yourself getting a bit angry (especially if you recognise yourself!).
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2 of 14 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The worst book I've read so far., 12 April 2010
By 
Harry the book monkey (Citizen of the world) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The State and Revolution (Penguin Twentieth Century Classics) (Paperback)
It's dull, its crude, it's full of petty resentment and a hopeless argument for the good of bolshevism. The only saving grace is that it's short. I cannot see for the life of me why anyone would be convinced of the justice of the Bolshevik cause from reading this rubbish. I was under the impression that Lenin was an intellectual and as the founder of communism in Russia, I was expecting to read an articulate book that would give an insight into the noble aims of the communist revolution in Russia. However it is far from any of this (Lenin's arguments read like those of an over enthusiastic school boy misquoting or oversimplifying Marx) I find it almost unimaginable that if this represents Lenin's full intellectual capacity that he could run a state or could even for one moment be considered capable of it. Yes you might get an insight into the Bolshevik mindset reading this book, but you will so discover what an impoverished mindset it is.
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