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It is well known that in the autumn of 1870, a few months before the Commune, Marx warned the Paris workers that any attempt to overthrow the government would be the folly of despair. But when, in March 1871, a decisive battle was forced upon the workers and they accepted it, when the uprising had become a fact, Marx greeted the proletarian revolution with the greatest enthusiasm, in spite of unfavourable auguries. Marx did not assume the rigidly pedantic attitude of condemning an "untimely" movement as did the ill-famed Russian renegade from Marxism, Plekhanov, who, in November 1905, wrote encouragingly about the workers' and peasants' struggle, but, after December 1905, cried, liberal fashion: "They should not have taken to arms."

Marx, however, was not only enthusiastic about the heroism of the Communards who, as he expressed it, "stormed Heaven." Although the mass revolutionary movement did not achieve its aim, he regarded it as a historic experience of enormous importance, as a certain advance of the world proletarian revolution, as a practical step that was more important than hundreds of programs and arguments. To analyze this experiment, to draw tactical lessons from it, to re-examine his theory in the light of it -- that was the task that Marx set himself.

The only "correction" Marx thought it necessary to make in the Communist Manifesto, he made on the basis of the revolutionary experience of the Paris Communards.

The last preface to the new German edition of the Communist Manifesto, signed by both its authors, is dated June 24, 1872. In this preface the authors, Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, say that the program of the Communist Manifesto "has in some details become antiquated," and they go on to say:

"One thing especially was proved by the Commune, viz., that 'the working class cannot simply lay hold of the ready-made state machinery, and weild it for its own purposes.'"

The authors took the words that are in single quotation marks in this passage from Marx's book, The Civil War in France.

Thus, Marx and Engels regarded one principal and fundamental lesson of the Paris Commune as being of such enormous importance that they introduced it as a substantial correction into the Communist Manifesto.

It is extremely characteristic that it is precisely this substantial correction that has been distorted by the opportunists, and its meaning probably is not known to nine-tenths, if not ninety-nine hundredths, of the readers of the Communist Manifesto. We shall deal with this distortion more fully further on, in a chapter devoted specially to distortions. Here it will be sufficient to note that the current, vulgar "interpretation" of Marx's famous utterance just quoted is that Marx here allegedly emphasizes the idea of slow development in contradistinction to the seizure of power, and so on.

As a matter of fact, e x a c t l y t h e o p p o s i t e i s t h e
c a s e. Marx's idea is that the working class must b r e a k u p,
s m a s h the "ready-made state machinery," and not confine itself merely to laying hold of it.

On April 12, 1871, i.e., just at the time of the Commune, Marx wrote to Kugelmann:

"If you look at the last chapter of my Eighteenth Brumaire, you will find that I say that the next attempt of the French Revolution will be no longer, as before, to transfer the bureaucratic-military machine from one hand to another but to s m a s h it" (Marx's italics -- the original is "zerbrechen "), "and this is the preliminary condition for every real people's revolution on the continent. And this is what our heroic Party comrades in Paris are attempting." (Neue Zeit, Vol. XX, 1, 1901-02, p. 700.)[14] (The letters of Marx to Kugelmann have appeared in Russian in no less than two editions, one of which I edited and supplied with a preface.)
The words, "to smash the bureaucratic-military machine," briefly express the principal lesson of Marxism regarding the tasks of the proletariat during a revolution in relation to the state. And it is precisely this lesson that has been not only completely forgotten, but positively distorted by the prevailing, Kautskyite, "interpretation" of Marxism!

As for Marx's reference to The Eighteenth Brumaire, we have quoted the corresponding passage in full above.

It is interesting to note, in particular, two points in the above-quoted argument of Marx. First, he confines his conclusion to the continent. This was understandable in 1871, when England was still the model of a purely capitalist country, but without a militqary clique and, to a considerable degree, without a bureaucracy. Hence, Marx excluded England, where a revolution, even a people's revolution, then seemed possible, and indeed was possible, without the preliminary condition of destroying the ready-made state machinery."

Today, in 1917, in the epoch of the first great imperialist war, this qualification made by Marx is no longer valid. Both England and America, the biggest and the last representatives -- in the whole world -- of Anglo-Saxon "liberty," in the sense that they had no militarist cliques and bureaucracy, have today completely sunk into the all-European filthy, bloody morass of bureaucratic-military institutions which subordinate everything to themselves and trample everything underfoot. Today, in England and in America, too, "the preliminary condition for every real people's revolution" is the
s m a s h i n g, the d e s t r u c t i o n of the "ready-made state machinery" (perfected in those countries, between 1914 and 1917, up to the "European," general imperialist standard).

Secondly, particular attention should be paid to Marx's extremely profound remark that the destruction of the bureaucratic-military state machine is "the preliminary condi-tion for every real people's revolution." This idea of a "people's" revolution seems strange coming from Marx, so that the Russian Plekhanovites and Mensheviks, those followers of Struve who wish to be regarded as Marxists, might possibly declare such an expression to be a "slip of the pen" on Marx's part. They have reduced Marxism to such a state of wretchedly liberal distortion that nothing exists for them beyond the antithesis between bourgeois revolution and proletarian revolution -- and even this antithesis they interpret in an extremely lifeless way.

If we take the revolutions of the twentieth century as examples we shall, of course, have to admit that the Portuguese and the Turkish revolutions are both bourgeois revolutions. Neither of them, however, is a "people's" revolution, inasmuch as in neither does the mass of the people, its enormous majority, come out actively, independently, with its own economic and political demands to any noticeable degree. On the contrary, although the Russian bourgeois revolution of 1905-07 displayed no such "brilliant" successes as at times fell to the lot of the Portuguese and Turkish revolutions, it was undoubtedly a "real people's" revolution, since the mass of the people, its majority, the very lowest social strata, crushed by oppression and exploitation, rose independently and placed on the entire course of the revolution the impress of theirown demands, of their attempts to build in their own way a new society in place of the old society that was being destroyed.

In Europe, in 1871, there was not a single country on the Continent in which the proletariat constituted the majority of the people. A "people's" revolution, one that actually swept the majority into its stream, could be such only if it embraced both the proletariat and the peasantry. These two classes then constituted the "people." These two classes are united by the fact that the "bureaucratic-military state machine" oppresses, crushes, exploits them. To smash this machine, to break it up -- this is truly in the interest of the "people," of the majority, of the workers and most of the peasants, this is "the preliminary condition" for a free alliance between the poorest peasants and the proletarians, whereas without such an alliance democracy is unstable and socialist transformation is impossible.

As is well known, the Paris Commune was indeed working its way toward such an alliance, although it did not reach its goal owing to a number of circumstances, internal and external.

Consequently, in speaking of a "real people's revolution," Marx, without in the least forgetting the peculiar character istics of the petty bourgeoisie (he spoke a great deal about them and often), took strict account of the actual balance of class forces in the majority of continental countries in Europe in 1871. On the other hand, he stated that the "smashing" of the state machine was required by the interests of both the workers and the peasants, that it unites them, that it places before them the common task of removing the "parasite" and replacing it by something new.

By what exactly?


In 1847, in the Communist Manifesto, Marx's answer to this question was as yet a purely abstract one, or, to speak more correctly, it was an answer that indicated the tasks, but not the ways of accomplishing them. The answer given in the Communist Manifesto was that this machine was to be replaced by "the proletariat organized as the ruling class," by the "winning of the battle of democracy."

Marx did not indulge in utopias; he expected the experience of the mass movement to provide the reply to the question as to what specific forms this organization of the proletariat as the ruling class will assume and as to the exact manner in which this organization will be combined with the most complete, most consistent "winning of the battle of democracy."

Marx subjected the experience of the Commune, meagre as it was, to the most careful analysis in The Civil War in France. Let us quote the most important passages of this work.

Originating from the Middle Ages, there developed in the nineteenth century "the centralized State power, with its ubiquitous organs of standing army, police, bureaucracy, clergy, and judicature." With the development of class antagonisms between capital and labour, "the State power assumed more and more the character of the national power of capital over labour, of a public force or ganized for social enslavement, of an engine of class despotism. After every revolution marking a progressive phase in the class struggle, the purely repressive character of the State power stands out in bolder and bolder relief." After the Revolution of 1848-49, the State power became "the national war engine of capital against labour." The Second Empire consolidated this.

"The direct antithesis to the empire was the Commune." It was "the positive form" of "a Republic that was not only to supersede the monarchical form of class-rule itself."

What was this "positive" form of the proletarian, the socialist republic? What was the state it began to create?

". . . The first decree of the Commune . . . was the suppression of the standing army, and the substitution for it of the armed people."

This demand now figures in the program of every party claiming the name of Socialist. But the real worth of their programs is best shown by the behaviour of our Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks, who, right after the revolution of February 27, actually refused to carry out this demand!

"The Commune was formed of the municipal councillors, chosen by universal suffrage in the various wards of the town, responsible and revocable at short terms. The majority of its members were naturally working men, or acknowledged representatives of the working class. . . . Instead of continuing to be the agent of the Central Government, the police was at once stripped of its political attributes, and turned into the responsible and at all times revocable agent of the Commune. So were the officials of all other branches of the Administration. From the members of the Commune downwards, the public service had to be done at workmen's wages. The vested interests and the representation allowances of the high dignitaries of State disappeared along with the high dignitaries them selves. . . . 
"Having once got rid of the standing army and the police, the physical force elements of the old Government,the Commune was anxious to break the spiritual force of repression, the 'parson-power'. . . . 
"The judicial functionaries were to be divested of that sham independence . . . they were to be elective, responsible, and revocable.''

Thus the Commune appears to have replaced the smashed state machine "only" by fuller democracy: abolitiorn of the standing army; all officials to be elected and subject to recall. But as a matter of fact this "only" signifies a gigantic replacement of certain institutions by other institutions of a fundamentally different order. This is exactly a case of "quantity becoming transformed into quality": democracy, introduced as fully and consistently as is at all conceivable, is transformed from bourgeois democracy into proletarian democracy; from the state (= a special force for the suppression of a particular class) into something which is really no longer the state.

It is still necessary to suppress the bourgeoisie and crush its resistance. This was particurly necessary for the Commune; and one of the reasons for its defeat is that it did not do this with sufficient determination. But the organ of supression is now the majority of the population, and not a minority, as was always the case under slavery, serfdom and wage slavery. And since the majority of the people itself suppresses its oppressors, a "special force" for suppression is n o
l o n g e r n e c e s s a r y ! In this sense the state begins to wither away . Instead of the special institutions of a privileged minority (privileged officialdom, the chiefs of the standing army), the majority itself can directly fulfil all these functions, and the more the functions of state power devolve upon the people as a whole the less need is there for the existence of this power.

In this connection the following measures of the Commune emphasized by Marx are particularly noteworthy: the abolition of all representation allowances, and of all monetary privileges in the case of officials, the reduction of the remuneration of all servants of the state to the level of "workmen's wages." This shows more clearly than anything else the turn from bourgeois democracy to proletarian democracy, from the democracy of the oppressors to the democracy of the oppressed classes, from the state as a "special force " for the suppression of a particular class to the suppression of the oppressors by the general force of the majority of the people -- the workers and the peasants. And it is precisely on this particularly striking point, perhaps the most important as far as the problem of the state is concerned, that the teachings of Marx have been most completely forgotten! In popular commentaries, the number of which is legion, this is not mentioned. It is "good form" to keep silent about it as if it were a piece of old-fashioned "naïveté," just as the Christians, after their religion had been given the status of a state religion, "forgot" the "naïveté" of primitive Christianity with its democratic revolutionary spirit.

The reduction of the remuneration of the highest state officials seems to be "simply" a demand of naïve, primitive democracy. One of the "founders" of modern opportunism, the ex-Social-Democrat, Eduard Bernstein, has more than once indulged in repeating the vulgar bourgeois jeers at "primitive" democracy. Like all opportunists, and like the present Kautskyites, he utterly failed to understand that, first of all, the transition from capitalism to Socialism is impossible without a certain "reversion" to "primitive" democracy (for how else can the majority, and then the whole population without exception, proceed to discharge state functions?); and, secondly, that "primitive democracy" based on capitalism and capitalist culture is not the same as primitive democracy in prehistoric or precapitalist times. Capitalist culture has created large-scale production, factories, railways, the postal service, telephones, etc., and on this basis the great majority of the functions of the old "state power" have become so simplified and can be reduced to such exceedingly simple operations of registration, filing and checking that they can be easily performed by every literate person, can quite easily be performed for ordinary "workmen's wages," and that these functions can (and must) be stripped of every shadow of privilege, of every semblance of "official grandeur."

All officials, without exception, elected and subject to recall at any time, their salaries reduced to the level of ordinary "workmen's wages" -- these simple and "self-evident" democratic measures, while completely uniting the interests of the workers and the majority of the peasants, at the same time serve as a bridge leading from capitalism to Socialism. These measures concern the reconstruction of the state, the purely political reconstruction of society; but, of course, they acquire their full meaning and significance only in connection with the "expropriation of the expropriators" either being accomplished or in preparation, i.e., with the transformation of capitalist private ownership of the means of production into social ownership.

"The Commune," Marx wrote, "made that catchword of bourgeois revolutions, cheap government, a reality, by destroying the two greatest sources of expenditure -- the standing army and State functionarism."

From the peasantry, as from other sections of the petty bourgeoisie, only an insignificant few "rise to the top," "get on in the world" in the bourgeois sense, i.e., become either well-to-do people, bourgeois, or officials in secure and privileged positions. In every capitalist country where there is a peasantry (as there is in most capitalist countries), the vast majority of the peasants are oppressed by the government and long for its overthrow, long for "cheap" government. This can be achieved only by the proletariat; and by achieving it, the proletariat at the same time takes a step towards the socialist reconstruction of thc state.


"The Commune," Marx wrote, "was to be a working, not a parliamentary, body, executive and legislative at the same time. . . ." 
". . . Instead of deciding once in three or six years which member of the ruling class was to represent and repress [ver- und zertreten ] the people in Parliamert, universal sufferage was to serve the people, constituted in Communes, as individual suffrage serves every other employer in the search for the workers, foremen and bookkeepers for his business."

Owing to the prevalence of social-chauvinism and opportunism, this remarkable criticism of parliamentarism made in 1871 also belongs now to the "forgotten words" of Marxism. The professional Cabinet Ministers and parliamentarians, the traitors to the proletariat and the "practical" Socialists of our day, have left all criticism of parliamentarism to the anarchists, and, on this wonderfully reasonable ground, they denounce all criticism of parliamentarism as "anarchism"!! It is not surprising that the proletariat of the "advanced" parliamentary countries, disgusted with such "Socialists" as the Scheidemanns, Davids, Legiens, Sembats, Renaudels, Hendersons, Vanderveldes, Staunings, Brantings, Bissolatis and Co., has been with increasing frequency giving its sympathies to anarcho-syndicalism, in spite of the fact that the latter is but the twin brother of opportunism.

For Marx however revolutionary dialectics was never the empty fashionable phrase, the toy rattle, which Plekhanov, Kautsky and the others have made of it. Marx knew how to break with anarchism ruthlessly for its inability to make use even of the "pig-sty" of bourgeois parliamentarism, especially when the situation is obviously not revolutionary; but at the same time he knew how to subject parliamentarism to genuine revolutionary-proletarian criticism.

To decide once every few years which member of the ruling class is to repress and crush the people through parliament -- such is the real essence of bourgeois parliamentarism, not only in parliamentary-constitutional monarchies, but also in the most democratic republics.

But if we deal with the question of the state, and if we consider parliamentarism, as one of the institutions of the state, from the point of view of the tasks of the proletariat in this field, what is the way out of parliamentarism? How can it be dispensed with?

Again and again we have to repeat: the lessons of Marx, based on the study of the Commune, have been so completely forgotten that the present-day "Social-Democrat" (read present-day traitor to Socialism) really cannot understand any criticism of parliamentarism, other than anarchist or reactionary criticism. The way out of parliamentarism is not, of course, the abolition of representative institutions and the electorial principle, but the conversion of the representative institutions from talking shops to "working" bodies. "The Commune was to be a working, not a parliamentary, body, executive and legislative at the same time."

"A working, not a parliamentary, body" -- this hits straight from the shoulder at the present-day parliamentarians and parliamentary "lap dogs" of Social-Democracy! Take any parliamentary country, from America to Switzerland, from France to England, Norway and so forth -- in these countries the real business of "state" is performed behind the scenes and is carried on by the departments, chancelleries and General Staffs. Parliament itself is given up to talk for the special purpose of fooling the "common people." This is so true that even in the Russian republic, a bourgeois-democratic republic, all these sins of parliamentarism were immediately revealed, even before it managed to set up a real parliament. The heroes of rotten philistinism, such as the Skobelevs and Tseretelis, the Chernovs and Avksentyevs, have even succeeded in polluting the Soviets after the fashion of most disgusting bourgeois parliamentarism and to convert them into mere talking shops. In the Soviets, Messrs. the "Socialist" Ministers are duping the credulous rustics with phrase-mongering and resolutions. In the government itself a sort of permanent quadrille is going on in order that, on the one hand, as many Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks as possible may in turn get near the "pie," the lucrative and honourable posts, and that, on the other hand, the "attention of the people" may be engaged. Meanwhile, it is in the chanceller ies and staffs that they "do" the business of "state."

Dyelo Naroda, the organ of the ruling "Socialist-Revolutionary" Party, recently admitted in an editorial article -- with the matchless candour of people of "good society," in which "all" are engaged in political prostitution -- that even in the ministries headed by the "Socialists" (save the mark!), the whole bureaucratic apparatus has in fact remained as of old, is working in the old way and quite "freely" sabotaging revolutionary measures! Even without this admission, does not the actual history of the participation of the Socialist Revolutionaries and Mensheviks in the government prove this? Noteworthy about it is only the fact that, in the ministerial company of the Cadets, Messrs. Chernovs, Rusanovs, Zenzinovs and the other editors of Dyelo Naroda have so completely lost all sense of shame as to unblushingly proclaim, as if it were a mere bagatelle, that in "their" ministries everything has remained as of old!! Revolutionary-democratic phrases to gull the rural Simple Simons; bureaucracy and red tape to "gladden the heart" of the capitalists -- that is the essence of the "honest" coalition.

The Commune substitutes for the venal and rotten parliamentarism of bourgeois society institutions in which freedom of opinion and of discussion does not degenerate into deception, for the parliamentarians themselves have to work, have to execute their own laws, have themselves to test their results in real life, and to render account directly to their constituents. Representative institutions remain, but there is noparliamentarism here as a special system, as the division of labour between the legislative and the executive, as a privileged position for the deputies. We cannot imagine democracy, even proletarian democracy, without representative institutions, but we can and must imagine democracy without parliamentarism, if criticism of bourgeois society is not mere empty words for us, if the desire to overthrow the rule of the bourgeoisie is our earnest and sincere desire, and not a mere "election" cry for catching workers' votes, as it is with the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries, the Scheidemanns and Legiens, the Sembats and Vanderveldes.

It is extremely instructive to note that, in speaking of the functions of those officials who are necessary for the Commune and for proletarian democracy, Marx compares them to the workers of "every other employer," that is, of the ordinary capitalist enterprise, with its "workers, foremen and bookkeepers."

There is no trace of utopianism in Marx, in the sense that he made up or invented a "new" society. No, he studied the birth of the new society o u t o f the old, the forms of transition from the latter to the former as a natural-historical process. He examined the actual experience of a mass proletarian movement and tried to draw practical lessons from it. He "learned" from the Commune, just as all the great revolutionary thinkers were not afraid to learn from the experience of the great movements of the oppressed classes, and never addressed them with pedantic "homilies" (such as Plekhanov's: "they should not have taken to arms"; or Tsereteli's: "a class must limit itself").

There can be no thought of abolishing the bureaucracy at once, everywhere and completely. That is utopia. But to smash the old bureaucratic machine at once and to begin immediately to construct a new one that will permit to abolish gradually all bureaucracy -- this is n o t utopia, this is the experience of the Commune, this is the direct and immediate task of the revolutionary proletariat.

Capitalism simplifies the functions of "state" administration; it makes it possible to cast "bossing" aside and to confine the whole matter to the organization of the proletarians (as the ruling class), which will hire "workers, foremen and bookkeepers" in the name of the whole of society.

We are not utopians, we do not indulge in "dreams" of dispensing at once with all administration, with all subordination; these anarchist dreams, based upon a lack of understanding of the tasks of the proletarian dictatorship, are totally alien to Marxism, and, as a matter of fact, serve only to postpone the socialist revolution until people are different. No, we want the socialist revolution with people as they are now, with people who cannot dispense with subordination, control and "foremen and bookkeepers." But the subordination must be to the armed vanguard of all the exploited and toiling people, i.e., to the proletariat. A beginning can and must be made at once, overnight, of replacing the specific "bossing" of state officials by the simple functions of "foremen and bookkeepers," functions which are already fully within the capacity of the average city dweller and can well be performed for "workmen's wages."

We ourselves, the workers, will organize large-scale production on the basis of what capitalism has already created, relying on our own experience as workers, establishing strict, iron discipline supported by the state power of the armed workers; we will reduce the role of the state officials to that of simply carrying out our instructions as responsible, revocable, modestly paid "foremen and bookkeepers" (of course, with the aid of technicians of all sorts, types and degrees). This is our proletarian task, this is what we can and must start with in accomplishing the proletarian revolution. Such a beginning, on the basis of large-scale production, will of itself lead to the gradual "withering away" of all bureaucracy, to the gradual creation of an order, an order without quotation marks, an order bearing no similarity to wage slavery, an order in which the functions of control and accounting -- becoming more and more simple -- will be performed by each in turn, will then become a habit and will finally die out as the special functions of a special section of the population.

A witty German Social-Democrat of the seventies of the last century called the postal service an example of the socialist economic system. This is very true. At present the postal service is a business organized on the lines of a state-capitalist monopoly. Imperialism is gradually transforming all trusts into organizations of a similar type, in which, standing over the "common" toilers, who are overworked and starved, is the same bourgeois bureaucracy. But the mechanism of social management is here already to hand. We have but to overthrow the capitalists, to crush the resistance of these exploiters with the iron hand of the armed workers, to smash the bureaucratic machine of the modern state -- and we shall have a splendidly-equipped mechanism, freed from the "parasite," a mechanism which can very well be set going by the united workers themselves, who will hire technicians, foremen and bookkeepers, and pay them all, as, indeed all "state" officials in general, a workman's wage. Here is a concrete, practical task, immediately possible of fulfilment in relation to all trusts, a task that will rid the toilers of exploitation and take account of what the Commune had already begun to practise (particularly in building up the state).

To organize the whole national economy on the lines of the postal service, so that the technicians, foremen, bookkeepers, as well as allofficials, shall receive salaries no higher than "a workman's wage," all under the control and leader ship of the armed proletariat -- this is our immediate aim. It is such a state, standing on such an economic foundation, that we need. This is what will bring about the abolition of parliamentarism and the preservation of representative institutions. This is what will rid the labouring classes of the prostitution of these institutions by the bourgeoisie.


". . . In a rough sketch of national organization which the Commune had no time to develop, it states clearly that the Commune was to be the political form of even the smallest country hamlet. . . ." The Communes were to elect the "National Delegation" in Paris. 

". . . The few but important functions which still would remain for a central government were not to be suppressed, as has been intentionally mis-stated, but were to be discharged by Communal, and therefore strictly responsible agents. 

". . . The unity of the nation was not to be broken, but, on the contrary, to be organized by the Communal Constitution, and to become a reality by the destruction of the State power which claimed to be the embodiment of that unity independent of, and superior to, the nation itself, from which it was but a parasitic excrescence. While the merely repressive organs of the old governmental power were to be amputated, its legitimate functions were to be wrested from an authority usurping pre-eminence over society itself, and restored to the responsible agents of society."

To what extent the opportunists of present-day Social-Democracy have failed to understand -- or perhaps it would be more true to say, did not want to understand -- these observations of Marx is best shown by that book of Herostratean fame of the renegade Bernstein, The Premises of Socialism and the Tasks of Social-Democracy. It is precisely in connection with the above passage frorn Marx that Bernstein wrote that this program ". . . in its political content, displays in all its essential features the greatest similarity to the federalism of Proudhon. . . . In spite of all the other points of difference between Marx and the 'petty-bourgeois' Proudhon (Bernstein places the words "petty-bourgeois" in quotation marks in order to make it sound ironical) on these points their lines of reasoning run as close as could be." Of course, Bernstein continues, the importance of the municipalities is growing, but "it seems doubtful to me whether the first task of democracy would be such a dissolution (Auflösung ) of the modern states and such a complete transformation (Umwandlung ) of their organization as is visualized by Marx and Proudhon (the formation of a National Assembly from delegates of the provincial or district assemblies, which, in their turn, would consist of delegates from the Communes), so that the whole previous mode of national representation would vanish completely." (Bernstein, Premises, German edition, 1899, pp. 134 and I36.)

To confuse Marx's views on the "destruction of the state power -- the parasitic excrescence" with Proudhon's federalism is positively monstrous! But it is no accident, for it never occurs to the opportunist that Marx does not speak here at all about federalism as opposed to centralism, but about smashing the old, bourgeois state machine which exists in all bourgeois countries.

The only thing that penetrates the opportunist's mind is what he sees around him, in a society of petty-bourgeois philistinism and "reformist" stagnation, namely, only "municipalities"! The opportunist has even forgotten how to think about proletarian revolution.

It is ridiculous. But the remarkable thing is that nobody argued with Bernstein on this point. Bernstein has been refuted by many, especially by Plekhanov in Russian literature and by Kautsky in European literature, but neither of them said anything about this distortion of Marx by Bernstein.

To such an extent has the opportunist forgotten how to think in a revolutionary way and to ponder over revolution that he attributes "federalism" to Marx and confuses him with the founder of anarchism, Proudhon. And Kautsky and Plekhanov, who claim to be orthodox Marxists and defenders of the doctrine of revolutionary Marxism, are silent on this point! Herein lies one of the roots of the extreme vulgarization of the views concerning the difference between Marxism and anarchism, which is characteristic of the Kautskyites and of the opportunists, and which we shall yet discuss later.

Marx's above-quoted observations on the experience of the Commune contain not a trace of federalism. Marx agreed with Proudhon on the very point that the opportunist Bernstein failed to see. Marx disagreed with Proudhon on the very point on which Bernstein found a similarity between them.

Marx agreed with Proudhon in that they both stood for the "smashing" of the present state machine. The similarity of views on this point between Marxism and anarchism (both Proudhon and Bakunin) neither the opportunists nor the Kautskyites wish to see because on this point they have departed from Marxism.

Marx disagreed both with Proudhon and with Bakunin precisely on the question of federalism (not to mention the dictatorship of the proletariat). Federalism as a principle, follows logically from the petty-bourgeois views of anarchism. Marx was a centralist. There is no departure whatever from centralism in his observations just quoted. Only those who are imbued with the philistine "superstitious belief" in the state can mistake the destruction of the bourgeois state machine for the destruction of centralism!

But if the proletariat and the poorest peasantry take state power into their own hands, organize themselves quite freely in communes, and unite the action of all the communes in striking at capital, in crushing the resistance of the capitalists, and in transferring the privately-owned railways, factories, and and so forth to the entire nation, to the whole of society -- will that not be centralism? Will that not be the most consistent democratic centralism? And proletarian centralism at that?

Bernstein simply cannot conceive of the possibility of voluntary centralism, of the voluntary amalgamation of the communes into a nation, of the voluntary fusion of the proletarian communes, for the purpose of destroying bourgeois rule and the bourgeois state machine. Like all philistines, Bernstein can imagine centralism only as something from above, to be imposed and maintained solely by the bureaucracy and the military clique.

Marx, as though foreseeing the possibility of his views being distorted, purposely emphasized the fact that the charge that the Commune wanted to destroy the unity of the nation, to abolish the central authority, was a deliberate fake. Marx purposely used the words: "The unity of the nation was . . . to be organized," so as to oppose conscious, democratic proletarian centralism to bourgeois, military, bureacratic centralism.

But . . . there are none so deaf as those who will not hear. And the very thing the opportunists of present-day Social-Democracy do not want to hear about is the destruction of the state power, the amputation of the parasitic excrescence.


We have already quoted Marx's utterances on this subject, and we must now supplement them.

"It is generally the fate of completely new historical creations," he wrote, "to be mistaken for the counterpart of older and even defunct forms of social life, to which they may bear a certain likeness. Thus, this new Commune, which breaks the modern State power, has been mistaken for a reproduction of the medieval Communes . . . for a federation of small States (Montesquieu and the Girondins) . . . for an exaggerated form of the ancient struggle against over-centralization. . . . 
"The Communal Constitution would have restored to the social body all the forces hitherto absorbed by the State parasite feeding upon, and clogging the free movement of, society. By this one act it would have initiated the regeneration of France. . . . 
"The Communal Constitution brought the rural producers under the intellectual lead of the central towns of their districts, and there secured to them, in the working men, the natural trustees of their interests. The very existence of the Commune involved, as a matter of course, local municipal liberty, but no longer as a check upon the, now superseded, State power."

"Breaking of the state power," which was a "parasitic excrescence"; its "amputation," its "smashing"; "the now superseded state power" -- these are the expressions Marx used in regard to the state when appraising and analyzing the experience of the Commune.

All this was written a little less than half a century ago; and now one has to engage in excavations, as it were, in order to bring undistorted Marxism to the knowledge of the masses. The conclusions drawn from the observation of the last great revolution which Marx lived through, were forgotten just at the moment when the time for the next great proletarian revolutions had arrived.

"The multiplicity of interpretations to which the Commune has been subjected, and the multiplicity of interests which construed it in their favour, show that it was a thoroughly expansive political form, while all previous forms of government had been emphatically repressive. Its true secret was this. It was essentially a working-class government, the produce of the struggle of the producing against the appropriating class, the political form at last discovered under which to work out the economic emancipation of labour. 

"Except on this last condition, the Communal Constitution would have been an impossibility and a delusion. . . ."

The utopians busied themselves with "discovering" political forms under which the socialist transformation of society was to take place. The anarchists waived the question of political forms altogether. The opportunists of present-day Social-Democracy accepted the bourgeois political forms of the parliamentary democratic state as the limit which should not be overstepped; they battered their foreheads praying before this "model" and denounced as anarchism all desire to smash these forms.

Marx deduced from the whole history of Socialism and of the political struggle that the state was bound to disappear, and that the transitional form of its disappearance (the transition from state to non-state) would be the proletariat organized as the ruling class." But Marx did not set out to discover the political forms of this future stage. He limited himself to precisely observing French history, to analyzing it, and to drawing the conclusion to which the year 1851 had led, viz., that matters were moving towards the smashing of the bourgeois state machine.

And when the mass revolutionary movement of the proletariat burst forth, Marx, in spite of the failure of that movement, in spite of its short life and its patent weakness, began to study what forms it had discovered.

The Commune is the form "at last discovered" by the proletarian revolution, under which the economic emancipation of labour can take place.

The Commune is the first attempt of a proletarian revolution to smash the bourgeois state machine; and it is the political form "at last discovered," by which the smashed state machine can and must be replaced.

We shall see further on that the Russian revolutions of 1905 and 1917, in different circumstances and under different conditions, continue the work of the Commune and confirm the historical analysis given by Marx, that product of his genius.
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