What is the difference between Association and the State?

by Jehu

Certain Marxists have their own weasel words to cover their statist inclination. Unless pressed to demonstrate it, they routinely  refer to the Dictatorship of the Proletariat (as one person stated to me) as “a ruling class’ instrument of the suppression of class enemies”. The employment of coercion against the capitalists, they assert, means the association of the working class is a working class state.

This idea is not to be found in Marx or Engels writings and it isn’t even in the anarchist criticism leveled against Marx by Bakunin.

This really makes it appear as if the difference between working class association and a bourgeois state is who gets suppressed by violence. It poses the problem of association in  a way that isn’t even close to understanding how association differs from the state.

marxThe historical materialist conception of the state has nothing whatsoever to do with the employment of general means of coercion against the exploiters of labor. The critical concept to grasp when speaking of the state is not its relation to other classes in society, but the relation of the state to the class whose interest the state represents in an ideal form. To begin with we have to understand how the bourgeoisie differs from the proletariat in labor theory:

1. The bourgeoisie emerged in opposition to the classes of the feudal period and had to assert itself against these other classes. The proletariat, by contrast, is a product of the bourgeois mode of production and has no clas interest to assert against the bourgeois ruling class. I would imagine almost 99.99% of Marxists have no idea that, in the materialist conception of classes, the proletariat has no class interest to assert against bourgeois rule. They routinely refer to a “working class interest” opposed to the interests of the capitalist class as if this is an acceptable way to describe the conflict between the two classes.

Why is it critical to understand that, in Engel’s and Marx’s argument, the working class has no interest to assert against the bourgeois ruling class? In labor theory the interest of any class, “achieves an independent existence over against the individuals” who compose that class. So, for instance, the interest of the bourgeois class achieves an existence that is actually independent of the individual members of that class. The ideal expression of the interest of the bourgeois class, its general representative, is the bourgeois state.

The proletariat, however, since it has no interest to assert against any other class in society, does not have an interest that could attain an existence independent of its individual members. On this basis, Engels and Marx make the assertion that is absolutely critical to their entire argument: not until the proletariat appears does it become possible to abolish all classes. And this possibility hinges precisely on the fact that proletarians have no class interest to assert.

There is no way around this argument. No Marxist can identify as a Marxist and assert the proletariat has an interest to assert against the bourgeoisie that could be represented by some proletarian state form of any sort. You can only make such an assertion by fundamentally revising Engels’ and Marx’s theory. It is only because the proletariat has no class interest, that it can put an end to all classes.

Mind you this is no small matter: unless this is true all of Engels’ and Marx’s subsequent life work falls apart.

2. Because this class does not have an interest as a class, its rule cannot take the form of a state. In fact, there is no organization that this class can wield as a class that will give it any control over the productive forces of society. For the proletariat, as with all other classes that have appeared before it, no social organization can give these individuals control over their conditions of existence.

No Marxist who identifies as a Marxist can argue any state, in any form, can give the proletariat power to control its conditions of life. This argument is absolutely critical to Engels’ and Marx’s argument. because it means the proletariat have no choice but to enter into a voluntary association to control their conditions of life together.

No state can give them this control, only their association.

3. Since they have no class interest, the proletariat can only act as individuals. The proletariat cannot, under any circumstances, act as a class and all attempts to act as a class must fail. This means in all political conflicts where what counts is a clash of class interests, the proletariat is bound to lose. It cannot win, because it is incapable of acting as a class.

This last point is absolutely critical to understanding Marx’s and Engels’ theory because since this class is incapable of acting  as a class and must act as individuals, these individuals must abolish class politics itself — they must overthrow the state.

This is a very ordered argument in which all the threads of the argument must hold together in order for their life work to stand.

mikhail_bakunin_by_rae_maxwell-d3cwa8lReally, folks — are you actually naive enough to think the differences between Bakunin and Marx boiled down to who would put down the fucking capitalists with guns and who would not? Do you really think Bakunin was some fucking pacifist? Hell Fucking No! Bakunin would have killed these fucking exploiters just as quickly as any other communist. The question of means to deal with the exploiters never appears even once in the differences between these two communists.

The debate between Marx and Bakunin had nothing to do with how the association would treat the exploiters, but the relation between this association and the proletarians who would create it. It was all about whether the proletarians own association formed to manage the affairs of society could become independent of, and even come to dominate over, its members.

Every Marxist who thinks the association of labor is a state is saying Marx was wrong and Bakunin was right: the association not only could, but has to become itself an exploiter of labor just like the present state. Anyone who calls himself a Marxist, yet advocates employing this state or replacing it with any other form of state, is not a Marxist.

You are a fucking fascist.