Note on the Relationship between the Agency of Revolution and the State Power of Capital

A Note on the Relationship between the Agency of Revolution and the State Power of Capital

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The principal object of the revolutionary agency is the transcendence of capital; its removal from the process of reproduction of the social metabolism. The existence of the state power of capital is predicated on its role in maintaining capital as the dominant social relation of this reproductive process. Inevitably, as the agency of revolution commences the process of eradicating capital from the social metabolism, this must bring it into collision with the state power of capital. This state power is not going to stand to one side and let the very basis of its existence be pulled from underneath it or is it?.

This poses the question : Is the transition to the new socialist society to be carried through by peaceful means or by force of arms? How do we address this question?

Let us consider a situation in which this question is having to be addressed in the heat of the real living struggle. Increasingly, we would witness a polarisation between the conflicting interests of capital – as embodied in its state power – and those of the revolutionary class. We know what this state power is capable of; this organisation of ‘armed bodies of men’ (Engels) which stands guard over the interests of capital against the social body. We cannot discount for one single moment that this state power will move onto the offensive and endeavour to crush the agency of revolution. This is our ‘default’ position which we must always carry with us and therefore prepare for in words and deeds. But our provisional position must also admit the possibility of a peaceful transition no matter how remote this possibility. And, therefore, we must articulate the conception of a peaceful transition to the new society if, and only if, we are permitted to do so by this state power. Such a peaceful transition would, of course, involve the dismantling, the dissolution of this state power in the course of this transition. If this state power does not permit such a transition and openly or covertly goes on the offensive against us, then we would have no other option but to mobilise for war against that state power, that is, to deploy mass force of arms towards its break up and dissolution. As an intrinsic part of an overall strategy to break this state power, the revolutionary agency will have to determine tactically that point beyond which the struggle has passed which has rendered a peaceful transition impossible and now requires the deployment of armed force to topple this state power.

The outcome of any class struggle never depends on force alone. This is as much the case in a situation of open military conflict. The outcome is a function of the operation of a complex of mediations as the struggle takes its course and these ‘factors’ motivate to victory. Logistical considerations are just as important as, if not more important than, strategy and tactics.  A cursory glance into the history of military affairs demonstrates that, generally, force alone was never sufficient by itself to win through. In fact, many victories were actually won against overwhelming odds when military force was heavily weighted against the eventual victors.

Such victories depended on insight, intelligence, moral and spiritual motivation as well as brilliant tactical applications of manpower, resources and forces amongst other factors at the disposal of the winning side. In war, it is the operation, application and articulation of the totality of conditions which determine the eventual outcome of a struggle and not simply one aspect of this totality, no matter how central it may appear to be located within the scheme or order of the given situation. We can all cite examples where the ‘odds’ stacked against a protagonist did not prevent it winning through in the end.

If the guard dogs of capital do not allow us to enter the garden peacefully in order to cultivate it, then we will have no other option but to use force. In the course of deploying such measures, these state structures and powers of capital will have to be forcefully destroyed or transferred rather than being peacefully dismantled. To paraphrase Trotsky (The Transitional Programme) : If the state power refuses to disarm peacefully then it will have to be forcibly disarmed. And, in order to disarm this state power of capital, the revolutionary class and its agency must arm.

This state power – which has ruled in Britain in one form or another for about 500 years – has a bloody and violent history and feudal pre-history. This history informs us undoubtedly that the ruling class under threat has historically, at least as a last resort, always deployed force to defend its interests. It had, under such conditions, everything to lose if it had simply let the challenging class march in and take power. A cursory amble through the class struggle in England over the last millenium demonstrates the truth of this general conception. And this is precisely why we must never lose sight of the probability that an armed transition may be necessary whilst not precluding absolutely the possibility of a peaceful transition. And then, of course, there are the global powers of capital against us. The coming revolution will, necessarily, be an unfolding global affair and not simply ‘in one country’, not a Stalinist monstrosity as we witnessed in the Soviet system.

Shaun May
December 2012


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