state authoritarianism

Bryan A. Alexander bnalexan at
Mon Jul 10 21:30:44 MDT 1995

Jerry - glevy? - responds precisely and with a fine question, one that I
think stumped Marx in CIVIL WAR IN FRANCE - given the repressive nature of
the state, can it be used to create a more just society?  An easy Hegelian
resolution opens up here, with the evil state dialectically yielding up a
good polis.  But Marx refuses this, I think, -or makes it material,
practical, more complex.  The capital-state is the famous boa constrictor,
"enmeshing the living society", "this parasitical execresence"  (246-7,
first draft, Penguin vol 3, POLITICAL WRITINGS).  Against this appear "the
armed people"  (209).  Here anarchism and Marxism display a fault line:
the former *tend* towards a micrological description of the armed people,
a series of communes/municipalities very loosely decentralized and
confederated (recent writers of course take this even further - see Hakim
Bey for instance); the latter, well, towards an odd creature: a state that
is not a state, a regime that attacks every support of regimes.  This must
be centralized, different roles collapsed into unity.  Loose confederation
and delegation is reactionary (211).
	(I'm picking on this text because it is so much more clear on the
state issue than others.  I'm painfully aware of not having read the book
enunciating the nuances of "dictatorship of the working class")
	So I'm back to the first 2 choices offer, a left that refuses the
state and a left that supports a working class state with no ideology.  I
decline the latter: the state plays too important a role in the production
and maintanence of ideology for it to create a society without it.  Recall
Adorno's beautiful line about ideology being the words told by lion to its
prey - what will this new state say, or how will it speak?  Its mechanisms
of expression are always already devices of domination, of hierarchy.  One
way out, I think.  If we assume that the prole-staat occurs before the
completion of revolution, it is then a massive weapon against the remnants
of capital.  We fall back on Gramsci, sort of (assume this site of
struggle has been conquered?), and proclaim the militant nature of the
enterprise.  This is, as I see it, the only way to use the state, for the
	But choice #1 glimmers in uncertainty - what revolution without a
state?  Short of tumbling us into the old anarchism-is-fascism line
(yawn) and debate, can we find communism without states?  I think, as I
do increasingly, of Autonomia.  Here I stop - I want to discuss this
movement very much, and think it speaks to our debate strongly.

Bryan Alexander
Department of English
University of Michigan

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