Wednesday, October 31, 2012


Today, I will present the eighth and final installment of “State and Counter Revolution: A Critical History of the Marxist Theory of the State” by Tom Clark, a former comrade of mine from the long departed Communist Workers Group (ML).  Today's post will include the Conclusion, Appendix One, Appendix Two, and the Bibliography.

As another friend, Rick Atkinison,  writes in his background to the work:

The over-arching point of Mr. Clark’s critique was that the petty bourgeois intelligentsia, whether advocating for imperialism or socialism and regardless of the social structure within which they live, could only continue to exist as part of a parasitical strata.  It is “parasitical” because in order to be “free” to pursue interesting ideas, conduct “principled” debate, research, write, etc. the intelligentsia must be supplied with the means of subsistence without “having to actually work for a living” (Ibid.).  The essence of petty bourgeois ideological work, whether capitalist or socialist, then, is simply to define and proselytize “how the privileged status of their kind is to be secured.”

Tom writes in his Conclusion presented below:

If the working class is to go beyond this historical stage, it must reclaim the leadership of its own movement, and oppose the theory and practical program of the socialist intelligentsia with its own.  While it may be a matter of speculation as to whether this will actually come about, there is no doubt that middle class intellectuals themselves will do everything in their power to postpone it.  Marxism-Leninism is, after all, the last of the truly great religions, and if its influence in the working class dies, the last hope of the middle class dies with it.







And Now...


The State and Counter-Revolution: A Critical History of the Marxist Theory of the State.
by Tom Clark


The historical continuity of the Marxist theory of the state consists in the fact that although it indicates theoretically the primary aspects of the bourgeois state power and its role in enforcing class relations, it nonetheless offers political solutions that perpetuate those same relations and consequently the same form of state.  Engels, for example, pointed out that suffrage under capitalism was an instrument of bourgeois rule, a means to deceive the masses, and yet expected suffrage to deliver the socialists into power.  Lenin emphasized that armed force, not parliamentary politics, was the central issue in the struggle for power, and yet he consistently engaged in and advocated parliamentary politics at the expense of the armed organization of the working class.  Marx declared that the bourgeois state must be “smashed,” but in practice limited this measure to non-parliamentary republics.  All advised that the workers must create their own form of state, and yet offered as a model Paris Commune type reforms entirely acceptable to capitalism and particularly to the middle class.  And as we have seen, the variations on this general theme are seemingly endless.
The ability of the socialist intelligentsia to attract the working class depends in large part on its skill in articulating what the workers experience in their daily lives.  If the intellectuals were able to tell the entire truth, they would likely talk themselves out of the picture altogether.  By a subtle and often unconscious mechanism of class instinct and conditioned prejudice, however, the intellectuals stop short of class reality and begin adapting their scientific views to their prejudicial ones.  Thus while a premise of socialist theory is that the liberation of the working class must be achieved by the workers themselves, this is interpreted broadly enough to include the leading and ultimately dominant role of the socialist intelligentsia.
In addition to this ideological monopoly, the radical intelligentsia is favored by the fact that the periods of greatest working class unrest generally coincide with the periods of greatest middle class unrest.  Hard times, either of war or economic depression/recession, tend to put all social classes into motion, although their apparent motion must be distinguished from the actual.  Four recent historical examples will illustrate this point best.
The mechanized horror introduced by the First World War alienated wide sections of the intelligentsia that had previously supported or at least been neutral towards their respective governments.  Young middle class officers could no longer watch the rank and file slug it out from a comfortable distance, but were themselves being blown to bits by indiscriminant fragmentation bombs.  The pacifistic, internationalist and antigovernment sentiment fostered by the intellectuals’ disillusionment resulted in a greater sympathy for the ongoing socialist movement, and particularly for its left wing, the Russian Bolsheviks.
Where, as in Germany, Eastern Europe and Russia, the working class movements were most active, restless intellectuals and other middle class elements often enrolled in or allied with the established socialist or emergent communist parties. Ostensibly, these people gave themselves to the cause of working class emancipation, but in reality simply joined other intellectuals who had previously gone through the same process of middle class radicalization.  At the very moment when the ruling classes were most vulnerable and the workers were in the best objective position to break the state power, the influx of intellectuals and petty bourgeois sympathizers gave the socialist intelligentsia the additional forces for insuring that even the most radical revolution would not violate general middle class interests.
Likewise, the alliance between the workers’ parties and the official petty bourgeois parties (for example, the Left S.R.’s in Russia), did not mean that the middle class had abandoned its own interests in order to join the workers.  It simply indicated that a section of the middle class recognized that its interests could be fulfilled through such an alliance.  Thus when the working class moved, large sections of the middle class also moved, but at its head and at its flanks, and this encirclement effectively contained the working class movement.
A similar phenomenon was repeated during the 1930s worldwide depression.  Here the primary cause of middle class disaffection was not war, but economic hardship.  Respectable petty bourgeois were ousted from their comfortable occupations by the hundreds of thousands, and so sought the political means to reclaim their rightful place in class society.  At the same time, the spontaneous workers’ movements were employing unprecedented tactics (armed confrontations with police and strikebreakers, sit-down strikes and plant seizures, etc.) to enforce their economic interests.
It is no coincidence that the 1930s witnessed the most rapid development of both fascist and socialist tendencies within the middle class.  As expressions of middle class outlook, the main difference between the two ideologies is, after all, simply that the fascists openly proclaim national chauvinism, whereas the socialists only practice it.  The struggle between fascism and socialism during the 1930s was not a fight between social classes, but a fight within a single class to determine which fraction would have the honor of leading the middle class to victory.  As it turned out, the fascists won the battles, but the socialists won the war.
The popularity of socialism during the 1930s among both the middle and working classes developed from a number of factors.  In the first place, the existence of established socialist and communist parties with definite programs of economic reform beneficial to the middle class provided a natural attraction for newly ousted but politically unformulated elements.  The extant socialists and communists were, so to speak, the pioneers of middle class salvation, who had already marked and cleared the way to the final aim.  In addition, the propaganda tasks of the socialist intelligentsia were simplified by the influx of unemployed artists, writers, actors and other professionals into the movement as sympathizers or active party cadre.  And further, the socialist intellectuals were joined by representatives of the traditionally populist rural petty bourgeoisie through various attempts at creating worker farmer alliances.
Perhaps the most significant influence of middle class sentiment on the workers, however, occurred within the trade union movement itself.  Increasing unemployment and business failures within the middle class forced many former insurance salesmen, former managers, ousted farmers, ex-students, etc., to take working class jobs when they could find them.  Since these new arrivals to the working class were generally more articulate, better educated and more uncomfortable with factory life than common workers, they naturally gravitated to and assumed leading positions in the industrial union movement.  Whether or not these middle class trade union leaders viewed themselves as socialists or (as was often the case) had connections with one or another fraction of the socialist intelligentsia is immaterial.  Their class influence was conducted through the simple affinity between trade union and middle class reformism.  Thus in addition to the ideological, political and cultural environment created by the middle class radicals, the workers were given their economic leadership as well.
When the workers struck or seized factories to enforce the right to unionize, to establish better working conditions, shorter hours, or a living wage, it was primarily the socialist intellectuals, the new arrival trade unionists, and labor aristocrats that benefited the most.  The already privileged craft unions benefited, since the higher wages won through hard struggle by the industrial workers meant an automatic increase for the skilled trades.  The trade union leaders benefited, since the establishment of industrial unions meant the creation of an extensive union bureaucracy and a middle class standard of living for its officialdom.  And the socialist intelligentsia benefited, since greater working class activity meant greater political influence, the ability to win reforms from the government, and not unimportantly, more credibility in fundraising, a primary source of income for the socialist intellectuals themselves.  Again, when the workers moved, sections of the middle class moved.  But while the workers won only minor improvements in their situation, the middle class elements won a new way of life.
A generation later, the 1960’s student and national minority rebellions provided one of the most graphic examples of the coincidence of working class and middle class unrest.  This movement was unique in that its underlying causes included not only the Vietnam War and civil rights injustices, but the inability of capitalism to gainfully absorb what was in fact an overproduction of middle class intellectuals.  Conceived during the postwar baby boom, the sons and daughters of the middle class had matured by the mid-1960s and began to overpopulate the universities and professional occupations.  The superfluity of educated youth and the scarcity of viable middle class occupations resulted in a widespread disenchantment with the system, and a portion of the intelligentsia dropped out from the intense competition on the excuse of finding alternatives.  One of those alternatives was, as might be expected, political activity within the working class.
By the 1960s, however, the majority of socialist and communist parties had settled into such reformist respectability that they could no longer attract the new generation of radicals.  Instead of attaching themselves to the old socialist movement, the more militant intellectuals created their own: the New Left.  By the early 1970s, the New Left had, in turn, split into a number of trends, the most populous of which was the “antirevisionist” Marxist-Leninist movement.
When, as in France during May, 1968, or in the U.S. during various strikes and trade union reform efforts, the working class movement began to gain momentum, it was already inundated with socialist intellectuals and ex-student “workers” willing to lend a hand, and in fact to assume leadership.
And more recently, the coincidence of working class unrest and middle class opposition movements throughout Eastern Europe and within Russia repeats the same basic formula with an ironic twist.  The common ground on which both the working and middle classes stand is the standard of living.  Solidarity did not, after all, initially strike for free markets or pluralism, but against price increases in life essentials.  It is at the head of Solidarity, and at the head of the other East European reform movements, that the mixing of intellectuals and trade union leaders results in political platforms that, while preserving a socialist, working class cast, will promote those conditions most favorable to the middle class as a whole.
To be sure, socialist intellectuals are often the motive force behind valid trade union reforms won through the workers’ collective action.  But the workers ought not thank them on that account.  Historically, trade union reformism, economic strikes, and even labor legislation are all activities rank and file workers can handle very well on their own.  So no special debt is due to the anxious intellectuals who agitate for beneficial reforms.  On the contrary, regardless of the subjective good intentions and sincerity of the socialist intelligentsia, its propaganda and organizational efforts within the working class are objectively geared towards perpetuating the workers’ subordinate position and thus securing the privileged status of the middle class.  The workers must therefore at some point learn that the leafleteers who appear during shift changes or the ex-student militants who agitate at union meetings are not attempting to break the old chains of class oppression, but are in reality forging new ones.
The actual class motion of the socialist intelligentsia may not be apparent in the early stages of a working class movement, but it becomes obvious as soon as they take state power.  The practical experience of the past 70 plus years, however, is a high price to pay for such an elementary education.  As we have seen, from the Communist Manifesto onwards, the Marxist theory of the state has all along inadvertently indicated the actual intentions and prejudicial limitations of the socialist intelligentsia.  The present-day socialist states, with their class privileges, bureaucracy, suppression of strikes, and so on, are thus in no way a perversion or revision of Marxist theory, but its fulfillment.
If the working class is to go beyond this historical stage, it must reclaim the leadership of its own movement, and oppose the theory and practical program of the socialist intelligentsia with its own.  While it may be a matter of speculation as to whether this will actually come about, there is no doubt that middle class intellectuals themselves will do everything in their power to postpone it.  Marxism-Leninism is, after all, the last of the truly great religions, and if its influence in the working class dies, the last hope of the middle class dies with it.



The View From Inside:  George Konrad and Ivan Szelenyi’s

The Intellectuals on the Road to Class Power
(Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, NYC, 1979)

That intellectuals in the Eastern bloc are not completely oblivious to their class position under socialism is demonstrated by the working of these two Hungarian dissidents.  Despite their reliance on subjective sociological categories, Konrad and Szelenyi present a revealing view of the inner workings of socialist opportunism, of the means by which intellectuals promote themselves, secure their privileged status, and foster middle class strivings among the more ambitious workers.  It is not, however, a consistent self-criticism of the intelligentsia, since in their conclusions the authors still allow for a fraction of the intellectuals to provide ideological leadership to the working class.
The persistence of class prejudices is revealed by several major defects in the authors’ analytical framework.
Although Konrad and Szelenyi acknowledge the class structure of socialist society and define the working class as an exploited stratum, they deny that the Soviet Union and Eastern European countries are a form of state capitalism.  This denial is based on their belief that the concept of capitalism necessitates formal private ownership of the means of production and the free sale of wage labor on an open market.  In place of state capitalism, the authors offer the less intimidating category of “rational redistributive systems.”  A ruling class and oppression still occur, but somehow the state is neither bourgeois nor proletarian.
Their substitution accomplishes several things.  It dilutes the criticism of socialist states by removing them from the sphere of international monopoly capitalism.  The actual development of the socialist movement and its state forms is thus obscured, since instead of being an integral consequence of advanced capitalism, they are viewed as a departure from it.  Likewise, the class contradictions within socialist society are given a unique status, since if there is no real bourgeoisie, there is really no one to overthrow.  As a consequence of this view, the authors ignore the issue of armed force and emphasize instead the development of “critical self-knowledge” within the intelligentsia as a means to reform the system.
Obviously what is needed here is a little more critical self-knowledge.  If, as the authors state, formal ownership of the means of production is so central to the definition of capitalism, then every bankrupt enterprise, industry or utility in the West that is nationalized automatically falls into the category of socialist “rational redistribution.”  Likewise, any capitalist government (for instance, the Nixon administration during the early 1970’s) which institutes wage-price controls, and thus artificially sets the price of labor power, automatically becomes to that extent a socialist “rational redistributive” government.
What is actually occurring in those instances, however, is the further integration of finance capital and the state power, an integration that is essential to the preservation of capitalist relations and which reaches its highest form in the socialist state.  Capitalism does not cease to be capitalism on that account, but simply sheds those formal aspects peculiar to laissez-faire and adopts new ones more attuned to monopoly.  Under monopoly conditions, it makes little difference whether a particular bourgeois holds a certificate of ownership over the means of production.  What is essential is that the factories run, the workers work, surplus product be produced and appropriated, and that this entire process be directed by and for a ruling class.  State capitalism facilitates this process by rationalizing the essential features of capitalist production, by combining economic and political power into a direct, unified authority, and by thus giving the bourgeoisie even greater dominion over the working class.
While it is true that class conflicts in the Eastern bloc countries do not assume traditional forms, i.e. capitalists versus workers, one should not confuse this change in form with a change in fundamental economic relations.  Under socialism, the big bourgeoisie is maintained through the top strata of the party and state bureaucracy, the professions and labor aristocracy.  The integration of the ruling strata gives them greater hegemony, but at the same time poses a greater hazard.  Unlike traditional capitalist society, protesting workers do not confront a single company or industry, but the entire state apparatus.  It is no small wonder that significant strike movements in socialist society have been so rare.
Since Konrad and Szelenyi do not view socialism as a variation of monopoly capitalism, their analysis of the socialist intelligentsia takes on a supra-class coloring that ultimately leads them to repeat in miniature the same fallacies they have set out to critique.
The intelligentsia, in the authors’ view, took power in the socialist republics, but not as a class.  By their analysis, in fact, the socialist intelligentsia is only in the process of consolidating its class status, and cannot really do so until it organizes to depose the ruling elite, i.e. the top party and state officials, and take power for itself.
The authors propose that this be done through an alliance of the technocracy (the “necessary” intelligentsia) and the working class.  As could be expected, a vanguard role is reserved for the “marginal intellectuals,” i.e. people like Konrad and Szelenyi themselves, who will serve as ideologists of the new movement.  Having achieved critical self-knowledge, the intelligentsia will be able to restrain its own appetites, organize workers’ self-management and thus set socialist society on a true non-exploitative course.
It is obvious that the authors never had to work for a living, and intend to keep things that way.  The ruling elite (actually, big bourgeoisie), which presently frustrates the middling intelligentsia by its control over every channel of careerism and upward mobility, is to be removed.  The working class, which constantly threatens the whole structure of class privileges by its pivotal economic position, is to be mollified by a steady diet of self-management and paternalism.  And best of all, the intelligentsia is to remain an intelligentsia.
All that Konrad and Szelenyi have done by this scenario is to duplicate the one originally formulated by the founders of modern socialism.
In traditional capitalist society, it is the openly bourgeois class that dominates the system and frustrates the ambitions of the middle strata.  In socialist society this position is taken by the top party officialdom.  Under ordinary capitalism, dissident intellectuals begin to formulate various critiques of the system and look for support in the only social class that has the means and position to overthrow it, i.e. the proletariat.  Under socialism, the “marginal intellectuals” take the critical posture.  In the old socialist movements, the intellectuals predominated in the party, originated the movement’s aims and tactics, and rationalized their leading position on the grounds that they had abandoned their former narrow outlook and interests.  In the new movement the authors propose, the intellectuals will do the same, rationalized on the basis of “critical self-knowledge.”  When the old socialist movements finally took power, the real class striving behind the intelligentsia’s subjective good intentions was revealed:  to secure and develop the social and economic privileges of the middle class.  This inevitably gave rise to further stratification within the middle class, and thus to the emergence of a socialist bourgeoisie.
With Konrad and Szelenyi’s proposals the entire farce has come full circle.  Once again the middle strata finds itself between a rock and a hard spot, i.e. between the bourgeoisie and proletariat.  To realize its full potential, that is, to become bourgeois itself, it must overthrow the existing bourgeoisie.  And at the same time it must maintain the proletariat as a productive class so as to insure its own existence as a parasitic class.  Critical self-knowledge is a very good thing, but as the authors inadvertently show, it may be something the intelligentsia will never really know.


Western Marxism at its Worst: Hal Draper’s

Karl Marx's Theory of Revolution / State and Bureaucracy

(Monthly Review Press, New York City, 1977, ISBN 0-85345-A61-2)

This fat first volume of Hal Draper‘s opus on Marx's political theory would have never hauled itself onto any bookstore shelf without a helping hand from a "good ol' boy" network of academic liberals.  Robert Heilbroner, for example, a respected name in this New Left mutual admiration society, wrote in The New York Review of Books that Draper's work is "...extraordinarily stimulating...written in a fresh, open, often amusing style..."  Paul Sweezy, another bearer of respected name, wrote: "This is a work of Marxology in the very best sense of the term..."

Despite the fact that Draper's book is extraordinarily un-stimulating, stale, narrow, and painfully un-amusing, Heilbroner and Sweezy are not actually lying.  They simply know what they like.  And one thing they particularly like is to promote and be promoted as serious, independent Marxist thinkers whose writings are well worth the cover price.  Without such mutual congratulations, independent Marxists living in "the belly of the beast" would have a beastly time filling their own bellies.  They might actually have to work.  A collective ritual involving fraternal promotion, publishing agreements, favorable reviews, and secured sales through the use of the texts in the allied professors’ classroom’s thus drives off the specter of productive employment.  A moderately successful book is, after all, money in the bank, and that in turn is freedom to do what one pleases while the rest of the world works itself into the ground.

This pleasant arrangement differs from the internal economies of the more partisan socialist and communist parties in the West only in that the market to which the independent Marxists appeal is peopled by buyers with an incredibly high degree of social indifference.  Such intellectuals want to understand, sufficient for conversation purposes, the intricacies of Marxist theory, categorical minutiae and variations, interesting historical anecdotes or characters, etc., and that is all.  The demands of revenue therefore require that the independent Marxists divest their writings of any prescriptions for real political activity, practical moral obligations or direct action.  The saving grace here is that at least this “conversational Marxism" keeps these people off the streets.

By these criteria, Hal Draper has indeed done an outstanding job.  By the time the reader gets through the six hundred-plus pages of the author's aimless prose, any action, let alone anything political, is the furthest thing from one's mind.

Draper's stated purpose in this volume is, as was Lenin's in State and Revolution, to present the totality of Marx's thinking on the state.  But unlike Lenin, Draper takes no narrow view of this historical issue.  The reader is enlightened by the fact that "... most of the states that Marx had occasion to discuss were not capitalist states....”  This is, in Draper's mind, a good thing, since theory is enriched by the comparison of different phenomena.  The existing works on Marx's theories are "...unfortunately full of statements about Marx's views which actually apply only to capitalism..." and this, Draper laments, " a form of ethnocentrism."

Impressive.  Almost profound.  This supra-objective posture, however, actually has a very narrow aim.  By concentrating almost exclusively on Marx's analysis of non-capitalist states, Draper makes his whole exercise irrelevant to present political reality and even to the history of the socialist movement over the past century.  With the question of the state thus reduced to an entirely academic matter, Draper can freely vent his spleen on Marx's long dead opponents, wax polemical in 19th century clichés, and titillate his clientele with tales of Bonaparte and Bismarck while remaining absolutely silent on what any of this has to do with the hundreds of millions of souls who are presently living under the practical expression of Marx's theory of the state.  Score one for Draper's friends and admirers.

Draper rationalizes this reduction by arguing that for Marx there was no "norm" of the capitalist state, and that in fact "...a 'normal' state...must be as hard to find in reality as an 'average' person; and no planet follows Kepler's Laws even though they are 'true'."  Further, where Marx was justified " Capital to posit a 'pure' or 'abstract' bourgeois economy for the purpose of analyzing its basic laws...", such a beginning analysis should not be taken as an end point.  The same thus applies to the question of the state.  And finally, Draper offers the very 'dialectical' observation that " the life course of states --arising, flourishing, and dying-- more time is spent in the first and last stages than in the more 'normal' middle: that is, the 'normal' is one of the more abnormal conditions encountered." In case this last point has somehow got by the reader, we will repeat: normal is abnormal; abnormal is normal.  Keep this basic relationship in mind, and we will be a long way towards appreciating Draper's analytical ability.

If after considering these weighty arguments the curious reader should look up the term "eclectic" in any standard dictionary, he would no doubt find a picture of Hal Draper hard at work on his latest manuscript.  Draper is no simple eclectic, however.  He is an eclectic with a mission.  The nature of his particular cause becomes clear when we examine his points individually.

First, Draper's reference to normality a la Kepler's Laws is pseudo-science in the very worst sense of the term.  By referring to Kepler, Draper wishes to associate a respectable conclusion from real science with his own disreputable observations.  It is precisely the task of the real sciences to abstract what is most essential to a category of phenomena and thus reveal to reasoning the basic laws by which they operate.  The laws establish a norm, which, it should go without saying, has no one-to-one correspondence to every individual case.  Draper's pseudo-science, however, attempts to turn this lack of direct correspondence against the norm itself.  And why go to all this bother?  Because Marx himself did not abstract a norm of the state structure in general, or of the bourgeois state in particular.  And in Draper's view, if Marx did not do that, it cannot be due to any failing on Marx's part.  By not attempting to abstract the general, dare we say normal, features of state structures, Marx was simply being "scientific".

On the other hand, it occurs to Draper that Marx did in fact abstract a few general, normal laws from the phenomenon of capitalism in Capital.  Draper is therefore driven to create a second apology.  Marx's positing of a 'pure' or normal bourgeois economy for analysis is, according to Draper, a good way to begin in understanding concrete particulars.  But " the case of the theory of the state, there is a tendency to end with the beginning...(thus) freezing the theory into a static formula."  Draper knows we all hate static formulas, and by appealing to our prejudices hopes to get one by himself.

When Marx assumed an abstract capitalist economy in Capital, the concrete data he used for illustration purposes was drawn primarily from the example of English bourgeois economy.  This figures out fairly simply for everyone except Draper.  If you want to formulate the basic laws of capitalist economy, study truly capitalistic economies.  Likewise, if you wish to formulate the basic features of the bourgeois state, study truly bourgeois states.

But this is something Marx did not want to do. Instead, he turned his attention to the peculiarities of his own home state, Germany, and the countries flanking it on either side, France and Russia.  These were all countries in which the bourgeoisie was unable or unwilling to exercise control over the state apparatus.  While Draper praises this "greater' concern as being a counter-balance to "ethnocentrism" on the question of the state, it is in fact only an expression of Marx's own ethnocentrism.  After all, it is not as if Marx had pondered long and hard over the question of the bourgeois state, studied the examples of the U.S. and England in detail, abstracted the most essential features, etc., and on that basis analyzed transitional forms such as Bonapartism or Bismarckism.  Not at all.  He simply wrote, when so possessed, on particular aspects of German, French, etc. political life in scattered articles, addresses and correspondence.  And although there is enough material in that to give Draper a fat book, it lacks the coherency and grand design that Draper attempts to impart to it.

Thus it is impossible to "freeze into a static formula" a theory that was never fully formulated in the first place.  What Draper really means to say is that other Marxists have been satisfied with Marx's general observations on the bourgeois state, whereas Draper, following Marx's provincialism, fancies Marx's observations on the non-bourgeois state.  But to make this academic exercise seem relevant, deep, profound, "dialectical", etc., Draper must portray himself as a champion of historical objectivity.  In reality he is only juxtaposing the superficiality of other Marxist writers to his own.

The third device in Draper's anti-normality arsenal is his concern with "...the process of becoming, of change and interaction...”.  States in his view go through a life cycle, the shortest phase of which is the "normal".  The bulk of the time is spent coming into being or dying off.  Thus "normal is abnormal".  And thus Marx was justified in concentrating on transitional state forms.

The reader, of course, is supposed to be astounded at this terrifically dialectical insight.  Astounded enough, at least, not to notice that this tidbit of wisdom has a profoundly apologetic flavor.

In the first place, by referring to the life cycles of states in general, Draper is mixing apples (and rather bad apples at that) with oranges.  The evolution of the French state, for example, involves not one but several cycles, since it passed from a strictly feudal state to a transitional one (Bonapartism), and finally to a strictly bourgeois form.  So as not to slight dialectics, of course, there is an overlapping between these cycles, and the beginnings of the bourgeois form are rooted in the transitional one.  It serves Draper's purpose to throw everything into one cycle, however, in order to minimize the importance of the strictly bourgeois form.

In the second place, unless one traces the evolution of all state forms back to the Big Bang, it is an absolute falsehood to assert that "... more time is spent in the first and last stages than in the more 'normal' middle.  Even at the time Marx was writing, the bourgeois state form in England and the U.S. had been enjoying a "normal" phase of development for quite some time.  Surely enough time to provide sufficient material for investigation had he been so inclined.  In fact, English and American bourgeois parliamentary states are still historically successful, despite Draper's pseudo-scientific edict.  Likewise, the longevity of the French and German bourgeois states now makes Bonapartism and Bismarckism seem like temporary historical episodes.

One can only wonder what would drive a man so far from such simple facts.  In Draper's case, it is religious fervor.  He must rationalize every stupid or shortsighted act Marx committed in order to elevate him to the status of a philosophical-revolutionary God.  This accomplished, Draper can then set himself up as a high priest of Marxology and true interpreter of the holy word.  In this case, Draper's faith gives him the self-confidence to completely falsify historical processes to his own liking.  It would almost be amusing, in a quiet sort of way, were it not for the fact that all of this is done in the name of scientific reasoning and fidelity to historical fact.

This apologetic machinery, which Draper sets going early in the Foreword to his work, whines at a high pitch throughout the following six hundred pages.  In every instance where Marx or Engels lean too far to the left or right of Draper‘s sensibilities, he quickly pulls them back to center with a flurry of compassionate understanding.  Marx, for example, began his political career as a bourgeois democrat, i.e. a lean to the right.  But, Draper cautions, that is only half of the picture.  The other half is that Marx fought "...for complete, consistent democracy...", i.e. back to center.  Likewise, when the young Engels denounced political liberty as "...sham-liberty, the worst possible servitude...", Draper apologizes for his leftism on the grounds that Engels was not yet a mature Marxist.  And so on, page after miserable page.

By the time the reader gets to Draper's final conclusions, the suspense (and in fact life itself) has become nearly unbearable.  Where could all these endless apologies possibly be leading?  But just as we are beginning to go under in a state of withering away, Draper’s “General and Special Theories of the State” rescues us.

The “General Theory of the State,” Draper's unique contribution to Marxism, holds that overall the state apparatus serves the exploitative class structure of society, regardless of whether a particular ruling class exercises direct control over it.  This earth-shaking theory is the fruit of Draper‘s pondering over Marx‘s writings on non-bourgeois states.  This “Special Theory,” on the other hand, is the more familiar definition of the state, applicable in Draper's view to mere microseconds of history, as the direct political instrument of the ruling class.

This distinction may seem logical, but if and only if the parameters of one's thinking are set by Marx's preoccupations.  Marx wrote mainly of non-bourgeois states = General Theory.  Marx wrote not so much on strictly bourgeois states = Special Theory.  In the real world, however, it turns out that this "special" case of the state as a direct instrument is actually a very generalized phenomenon, and that the "general" instance of the state as a more independent entity is found only in specialized conditions.  That being the case, one can only remark that this General Theory is interesting, to be sure, but, very practically, what of it?

Draper's presentation of these Theories, with the qualifiers "General" and "Special" and reference to "warping away" of one from the other, is supposed to have a deeply profound, almost Einsteinian effect on the reader.  Obviously, on Heilbroner, Sweezy and untold other intellectuals it did.  But then, these people already live in a black hole of pretentious profundity and have an appetite for theoretical warps, categorical inversions, red-shifts (to the right) and other dialectical delights.  It keeps their minds off the real world beyond.  Having demonstrated his genius in fulfilling this need, Draper might just succeed in passing himself off as the Einstein of Western Marxology after all.


A Proposal Concerning the General Line of the International Communist Movement
Foreign Languages Press, Peking, 1963

Communist International Executive Committee of the Communist International, English Language Edition, 1919-1939 London 

Constitution of the Polish People's Republic, Warsaw, 1958

Dimitrov, G.:  Selected Works in three volumes, Sophia Press, Sophia, Bulgaria, 1972

Engels-Lafargue Correspondence in three volumes, Moscow

Gruliow: Current Soviet Policies, Volume Two, Praeger, NYC, 1957
Current Soviet Policies, Volume Three, Columbia University Press, 1960
Current Soviet Policies, Volume Four, Columbia University Press, 1962

History of the Party of Labor of Albania, Naim Frasheri Publishers, Tirana, Albania, 1971

Kase People's Democracies, Sijthoff, Leyden, Netherlands, 1968

Ladygin & Lebedev "A Weapon in Our Struggle", World Marxist Review, Vol. 11, #3, March, 1968 

Lazitch & Drachkovitch: Biographical Dictionary of the Comintern, Hoover Institute, 1973

Lenin, V.I. Collected Works in 45 Volumes, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1964
On the Paris Commune, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1970
Selected Works in three volumes, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1975

Lessons of the German Events, ECCI Session of 1/24, London Caledonian Press, 1924

Mao Tse Tung, Selected Works in five volumes, Foreign Languages Press, Peking

Marbury, R. The Soviet-Yugoslav Controversy, Prospect Books, NYC, 1959

Marx-Engels Collected Works, International Publishers, NYC, 1977
Letters to Americans, International Publishers, NYC, 1969
Selected Correspondence, Progress Publishers, Moscow
Selected Correspondence, International Publishers, NYC, 1942
Selected Works in three volumes, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1969

On Khrushchev's Phoney Communism, Foreign Languages Press, Peking, 1964

Political Affairs, Communist Party USA, NYC

Pollitt, H. Looking Ahead, CP Great Britain, London, 1947

Programme of the Communist International, Workers Library Publishers, NYC, 1936

Programme of the League of Yugoslav Communists, International Society for Socialist Studies, London, 1959

Ramiz, A. "The Democratic Front", Albania Today Sept.-Oct. 1974

Report of the Fourth Congress of the Communist International, Communist Party of Great Britain, London, 1922

Report of the Second Congress of the Communist International, United States Government Printing Office, Washington, DC, 1920

Rozmaryn, S. The Seym and People's Councils in Poland, Polonia Publishing House, Warsaw, 1958

VII Congress Report, Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow, 1939

Stalin, J.V. On the Draft Constitution of the USSR, Moscow, 1936
The War of National Liberation, International Publishers, NYC, 1942

The Communist, Communist Party USA, NYC

Theses of the Second Congress of the Communist International, Petrograd, 1920

Theses of the Third Congress of the Communist International, Contemporary Publishing Association, NYC, 1921

XIII Plenum of the Executive Committee of the Communist International, Modern Books, LTD, London, 1933

Ulbricht, W. On Questions of the Socialist Reconstruction in the G.D.R., Verlag Zeit Im Bild, Dresden, 1968
Whither Germany?, Zeit Im Bild Publishing House, Dresden, 1966

World News and Views Executive Committee of the Communist International, English Language Edition, London

 The chronology of events was copied directly from the original text, hence I cannot copy and present it here.  You will, however, be able to view it tomorrow when I present you with a new link to the entire work.

No comments: