By James Thompson

In the recent experience of the Occupy movement, the role of the state has become all too apparent. In the beginning, the movement was met with little resistance from police or other representatives of the state. However, more recently, the state has unmasked itself and the agents of the state, the police, have openly attacked peaceful Occupy movement participants and have arrested them on both a small scale and on a mass scale. Heads of Iraq war veterans have been bashed and many others brutalized by the unleashed guard dogs of state power. The irony lies in the fact that the police are working people themselves who have been coerced into attacking those people who are currently most visible in the fight for the rights of working people.

How could this happen in a “democratic” country that prides itself on “free speech”?

To understand this development it is important to understand the Marxist Leninist concept of the state.

The state serves to protect and serve the ruling class and their interests. In capitalist societies, this would be the bourgeoisie, or ownership class, ultra-wealthy, i.e. the owners of the means of production.

Democracy in capitalist societies refers to the political struggle of various capitalist parties to maintain the state which protects and serves capitalists. Dictatorship of the bourgeoisie refers to the primacy of the state which defends the interests of the wealthy class. The state will do whatever is necessary to defend the interests of its benefactors, the ruling class.

Given these concepts, one has to ask what does “free speech” mean? Obviously, “free speech” refers to the freedom of people in capitalist societies to speak freely on behalf of and in support of capitalism. Serious criticism of capitalism and its state apparatus will be met with fierce hostility, both physical and verbal.

In socialist societies, the state serves to protect the interests of working people, which is socialism. Dictatorship of the proletariat refers to the primacy of the state in defending the interests of the working class. In other words, in a properly running socialist society the state would fight for the interests of working people.

The interests of the working class and the capitalist class are irreconcilable and the class struggle continues until one class is eliminated.

In other words, peaceful protesters against capitalism will continue to get their heads bashed in as long as the capitalists are the ruling class. Legislative reforms and minute advances for the working class will be difficult if not impossible and proceed extremely slowly with many setbacks and reversals of progressive advancements as long as the capitalists are in power. Once the working class becomes the ruling class, the interests of the working people will be protected and defended. The interests, rights and freedoms of the capitalist class to exploit and oppress workers, on the other hand, will be significantly curtailed.

I believe this advancement of the interests of working people is at the heart of the Occupy movement.

The works of Marx, Engels and Lenin are instructive in understanding the relationship of the state and the class struggle.

Lenin wrote in the first chapter of State and Revolution:

“During the lifetime of great revolutionaries, the oppressing classes have visited relentless persecution on and receive their teaching with the most savage hostility, the most furious hatred, the most ruthless campaign of lies and slanders. After their death, attempts are made to turn them into harmless icons, canonize them, and surround their names with a certain halo for the “consolation” of the oppressed classes and with the object of duping them, while at the same time emasculating and vulgarising the real essence of their revolutionary theories and blunting their revolutionary edge. At the same time, the bourgeoisie and the opportunists within the labor movement are cooperating in this work of adulterating Marxism. They omit, obliterate, and distort the revolutionary side of its teaching, its revolutionary soul. They push to the foreground and extol what is, or seems, acceptable to the bourgeoisie. All the social chauvinists are now “Marxists”-joking aside!”

Lenin goes on to quote Engels historical analysis of the concept of state:

“The state is therefore by no means a power imposed on society from the outside; just as little is it ‘the reality of the moral idea,’ ‘the image and reality of reason,’ as Hegel asserted. Rather, it is a product of society at a certain stage of development; it is the admission that this society has become entangled in an insoluble contradiction within itself, that it is cleft into irreconcilable antagonisms which it is powerless to dispel. But in order that these antagonisms, classes with conflicting economic interests, may not consume themselves and society in sterile struggle, a power apparently standing above society becomes necessary, whose purpose is to moderate the conflict and keep it within the bounds of ‘order’; and this power arising out of society, but placing itself above it, and increasingly separating itself from it, is the state.”

Lenin summarizes:

“The state is the product and the manifestation of the irreconcilability of class antagonisms. The state arises when, where, and to the extent that the class antagonisms cannot be objectively reconciled. And, conversely, the existence of the state proves that the class antagonisms are irreconcilable.”

He goes on:

“On the one hand, the bourgeois, and particularly the petty bourgeois, ideologists, compelled under the pressure of indisputable historical facts to admit that the state only exists where there are class antagonisms and the class struggle, “correct” Marx in such a way as to make it appear that the state is an organ for reconciling the classes. According to Marx, the state could neither arise nor maintain itself if a reconciliation of classes were possible. But with the petty bourgeois and Philistine professors and publicists, the state-and this frequently on the strength of benevolent references to Marx!-becomes a conciliator of the classes. According to Marx, the state is an organ of class domination, an organ of oppression of one class by another; its aim is the creation of ‘order’ which legalizes and perpetuates this oppression by moderating the collisions between the classes. But in the opinion of the petty bourgeois politicians, order means reconciliation of the classes, and not oppression of one class by another; to moderate collisions does not mean, they say, to deprive the oppressed classes of certain definite means and methods of struggle for overthrowing the oppressors, but to practice reconciliation.”

After many years of obfuscation by the wealthy classes, the current global economic crisis and its natural born child, the occupy movement and worldwide resistance to the ravages of capitalism, have clarified the role of the state in the class war. These events make it impossible to deny the relevance of the classic teachings of Marx, Engels and Lenin.

You can read V. I. Lenin’s State and Revolution online at: