[OPE-L] The Paris Commune and Holloway

From: michael a. lebowitz (mlebowit@SFU.CA)
Date: Sat May 21 2005 - 19:32:04 EDT

         On the question of fact. I asked:

>3) Would you reject the idea of attempting to make inroads (especially the
>'despotic inroads' referred to in the Communist Manifesto) because 'the
>state (any state) must do everything it can to provide conditions that
>favour the profitability of capital' [your attachment]?
>     Sorry, I don't understand the question. In general, I take it that
> what Marx and Engels said about the state in the Communist Manifesto does
> not represent their later views (after the Paris Commune).

Not true. What that workers' state (aka the 'dictatorship of the
proletariat') had to do in relation to uprooting capitalism remained
unchanged; what changed was that they learned from workers themselves what
form the state had to take to be a workers' state. If it weren't obvious
from the content, it's explicit in the 1872 Preface. Here's an excerpt from
Ch. 10 of Beyond Capital:

>Indeed, once established, it might face violent attempts by capital to
>reverse the process:
>         the catastrophes it might still have to undergo would be sporadic
> slaveholders' insurrections, which, while for a
> moment        interrupting the work of peaceful progress, would only
> accelerate the movement, by putting the sword into the hand of
> the       Social Revolution (Marx, 1871a: 156-7).
>             Thus, the workers' state would be an essential part of the
> process of revolutionary practice, the process whereby workers change
> themselves in the course of struggles and 'become fitted to found society
> anew'. Yet, as Marx and Engels learned from the actions of workers in the
> Paris Commune, this process required a special kind of state. 'The
> working class,' Marx (1871b: 68) commented, 'cannot simply lay hold of
> the ready-made state machinery, and wield it for its own purposes.'
> Although Marx and Engels argued in their 1872 Preface to the Manifesto
> that its 'general principles were, on the whole, as correct today as
> ever,' the Commune had 'proved' something not in the programme--- the
> need for a new kind of state for workers (Marx and Engels, 1971: 270).
> The Commune was 'the political form at last discovered under which to
> work out the economical emancipation of Labour' (Marx, 1871b: 75). At
> last discovered!

         Take a look at the discussion there, too, of the form of a state
which no longer stands over and above society as Marx described the Commune
in the Outlines for Civil War in France. As I indicated in the HM piece,
your book rejects both the Communist Manifesto and the Commune (and doesn't
even mention Marx's alternative of a decentralised state which serves as
the workers' own power).
ps. forgive the blatant promotion--- but it's one of the chapters that
wasn't in the first edition and with which I'm pretty happy.
Michael A. Lebowitz
Professor Emeritus
Economics Department
Simon Fraser University
Burnaby, B.C., Canada V5A 1S6

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