The State

The state and revolution

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In the weeks running up to the October Revolution Lenin took time out to write one of his most important works, a study of state power and who gets to hold it, writes Amy Leather.

State and Revolution was written by Lenin in the summer of 1917, during the momentous year of revolution in Russia. It addresses the central problem of all revolutions: that of state power and which class is to hold it. This was not an abstract question. The February Revolution had got rid of the Tsar but many of the issues that had led to it were not resolved. The new Provisional Government refused to distribute land to the peasants, continued the war, and offered little to workers.

States of exclusion

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The nation state with distinct borders is a recent idea, tied up with the development of capitalism. It is workers and the poor who suffer at its edges, writes Phil Marfleet.

Why are borders so important to the modern state? Why do politicians and the media obsess about “border security”? What lies behind the politics of exclusion?

Until the early modern era (17th to 18th centuries) borders between local kingdoms and principalities in Europe were fuzzy and seldom closely controlled. Mobility of goods and people was essential to sustain regional economies — most of the population was tied to the land but many people moved relatively freely as merchants, artisans, itinerant labourers, pedlars, seafarers and pilgrims.

How about a life in politics?

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Donny Gluckstein asks what the relationship is between “politics”, the state and radical social change, looking at reformist and revolutionary strategies as well as the rejection of it all in the form of anti-politics.

The foundations of mainstream politics are crumbling and the results are both exhilarating and troubling. Alongside the recent election victory of Syriza, and with Podemos topping Spanish polls, there is the frightening growth of the far-right in many European countries.

Don't Panic!

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The fear exhibited by the ruling class at the prospect of the break-up of the British state was a sight to behold. John Newsinger looks at the actions of a state machine under pressure.

The Scottish insurgency has been successfully contained by a mixture of threats, scare stories and fraudulent promises, but what a fright it gave the ruling class.

BBC reporter Nick Robinson remarked that he could actually smell Cameron’s and Miliband’s fear when it looked as if the Yes vote was gathering momentum.

It was this fear that led the three party leaders, Miliband, Cameron and Clegg, to make what is likely to become their infamous “vow”. Given the track record of these men one can only admire their nerve.

Why Read The Civil War in France?

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The Paris Commune of 1871 was the result of the world's first working class revolution. It survived for only two months but it was the most democratic and liberating government the world had seen up till that point. It offered a glimpse of a model of democracy that goes beyond the limited parliamentary democracy which is the best we can expect under capitalism.

Marx did not pluck a theory of what real democracy would look like from thin air - he learnt it from the concrete example of the Paris Commune. The Civil War in France, a pamphlet based on speeches to the First International, was written by Marx in 1871. It is both an impressive, succinct history of the Paris Commune and a powerful polemic against capitalism.

Which strategy for the left?

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In last month's Socialist Review, Ed Rooksby, a supporter of the Left Unity initiative, put forward his view that a left government can play a key role in the fight for radical change. Mark L Thomas argues this ignores the role of the state.

The Left Unity initiative has struck a chord with a significant number of socialists in Britain. The call by Ken Loach and others for a new left party had seen over 8,000 people put their names to it and Left Unity has now held a series of meetings and formed local groups across the country. It clearly expresses a mood for something better than the austerity agenda accepted by Labour under Ed Miliband.

Why read State and Revolution

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Lenin finished writing State and Revolution in September 1917. At the time the fate of the Russian Revolution hung in the balance. After the February Revolution overthrew the Tsar, the country was run by a provisional government involving socialists in coalition with bourgeois forces.

Workers across Europe continued to be sent to the trenches in their millions in a seemingly endless imperialist war.

Lenin was aware of the desperate need for workers to take power in Russia, but also for revolution to spread beyond Russia. He aimed his arguments at Karl Kautsky, who had been the leading theoretician of the influential pre-war German Social Democratic Party (SPD). The key question was whether the existing state under capitalism could be taken over and used to advance the interests of workers.

States and capital, the banks and the bailouts

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Right wingers usually argue that the state should get out of the way of private capital - that economic problems are caused by an overbearing state or regulation. Jack Farmer argues that the state actually serves to prop up the private sector, a role confirmed by the way that capitalism has evolved in recent years

Tories often say that they don't like the state. They say it's a drag on the economy, dampening the risk-taking creativity of the private sector.

Revolutionary Lessons: Should we aim to smash the state?

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Can students challenge the state? Jack Farmer explores the issues.

As the "Day X" student protests unfolded before Christmas, a series of impressions were left in their wake: the sight of teenagers chanting and charging around central London; the smell of placards burning in the freezing air; the sound of breaking glass.

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