30 August 2013

Power to the People!

Philosophy and Religion, Part 10b

Power to the People!

The late South African revolutionary Ron Press provides a very good stepping-off point from our course because he shows clearly where the open end of this study is located. In the next proletarian revolution we must have what the Bolsheviks did not have, which is a clear philosophical theory of how society is going to work without a state. We are still looking for such a theory.

In “New Tools for Marxists” (download linked below), Ron Press wrote:

‘“…the standard Marxist idea that society passes in a linear manner from primitive communism via class struggle to the ultimate victory when the working class replaces capitalism with a classless society is an unattainable myth. Especially when a classless society was taken to mean the establishment of order and stability, in fact stasis. The theories [outlined above] indicate that stasis means the inevitable sudden crossover into chaos and collapse.

‘Lenin in “State and Revolution” continued the work of Engels and Marx in outlining the parameters which form the basis for the definition of systems indicated by points (a) and (b). It is interesting that they did not define the form or structure which socialism will have. Lenin recognised these new structures when they emerged. He initiated the slogan “all power to the soviets”.’

Ron Press is saying that the theory of the State, and of the “withering away” of the State, in Marx, Engels and Lenin is not wrong, yet these three revolutionaries did not have the full theoretical means to appreciate in full how “stateless” systems can, and already do, work in nature and in human society.

A “stateless” self-balancing system

The revolutionaries of today have an advantage over those of a century ago. That being the case, we might imagine a “State and Revolution” for today, that would include not only the material that Lenin would have included in 1917 if he had had the time, but also material that Lenin would have included in the intervening period up to the present time, if he had had the knowledge of it.

Ron Press’s article gives a good start for that work. Please download it and read it. The diagrams above, relating to the “Strange Attractor” of Chaos Theory, and to the stability-anarchy self-correcting system, are from the article.

The matter sits like this: In the past, “stateless” ungoverned systems could be postulated but not described or fully imagined. The “withering away of the state” remained a somewhat mystical and to its opponents, ridiculous concept. But now, because of the theoretical advances that Ron Press shows us, it can be seen that most systems (both human and natural) operate in fact without a “state” (or king, for that matter) and that the “state” is the exception, not the rule. Further, the imposition of a “state”, far from being the guarantee of order, is, according to chaos theory, the certain harbinger, not of stasis, but of disorder.

This is an unexpected vindication of Marxism, but a highly useful one. It means that future revolutionaries will have the possibility to see much further forward than was the case in Lenin’s time.

·        The above is to introduce the original reading-text: New tools for Marxists, 1995, Ron Press.


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