Lenin's State and Revolution

In Lenin’s State and Revolution, there is a theme of violence that is present. Lenin uses this theme of violence, along with quotes and citations from the works of Marx and Engels, to “resuscitate the real teachings of Marx on the state” (p.7). The theme of violence is necessary in Lenin’s book because, without the theme of violence, Lenin could not accurately and successfully make his argument or portray the current events of the time that are relevant to it.

In order to understand violence and its’ theme in Lenin’s State and Revolution, we must first understand that there are varied forms of violence. There is physical violence that comes in the form of fights and weapons, there is mental violence that comes in the form of hatred and slander and persecution, and there is a political violence that comes in the form of a disruption or an uprooting of the ruling system of the state. It is important to recognize all of these forms of violence while going through Lenin’s work.

Lenin starts out by describing how violence is a factor in the teachings of Marx even before they could be differentiated from abstract thoughts. He says that, “During the lifetime of great revolutionaries, the oppressing classes have visited relentless persecution on them and received their teaching with the most savage hostility, the most furious hatred, the most ruthless campaign of lies and slander” (p.7). It is thus necessary for Lenin to tell of and describe this violence in State and Revolution because violence in the form persecution, hostility, hatred, and lies plagued Marx’s life. Therefore, in order to fully comprehend Marx’s teachings, we must understand his circumstance.

“It is clear that the liberation of the oppressed class is impossible not only without a violent revolution, but also without the destruction of the apparatus of state power” (p.9). Lenin states that this is a part of Marxism that “is forgotten or glossed over.” He is stressing the notion that revolution is not feasible without violence, and the violence must be enough but not so out of control as to destroy the system that is holding the state together. So in essence, violence is the catalyst that is necessary to start any kind of revolution.

Lenin quotes Engels and describes that a “special public force is necessary, because a self-acting armed organization of the population has become impossible since the cleavage of society into classes” (p.10). He is saying that a special force is needed because without one, revolution would be limited to “a herd of monkeys grasping sticks” (p11). This special force would have the ability to inflict violence, which would in turn make them powerful. Therefore, the ability to cause violence equals power. We see here that the ability to create violence is not only necessary, but also desired during the time of revolution.

“Every revolution, by shattering the state apparatus, demonstrates to us how the ruling class aims at the restoration of the special bodies of armed men at its service, and how the oppressed class tries to create a new organization of this kind, capable of serving not the exploiters, but the exploited” (p. 11). Thus, in revolution everyone is looking out for the improvement of the state, and also for the improvement of themselves. Violence, therefore, is not only necessary for the revolutionary leaders and the state government, but also for the everyday citizen. The will of citizens wanting to better themselves led to the dawn of imperialism, which led to bigger armies, which obviously led to violence and we know that violence is necessary for revolution.

The theme of violence is present throughout Lenin’s State and Revolution, but it is not consistent. The theme of violence occurs various times on most pages up to number twenty. However, after hitting page number twenty, the theme of violence is strongly subdued and it only appears every ten pages or so. This tells us that violence is most definitely necessary in revolution and in Marx’s teachings, but it is not the only thing that is necessary. There are other aspects to State and Revolution that need to be backed up with examples or concepts that are not violent or have nothing to do with violence.

In conclusion, violence is a huge theme in Marx’s theories and in Lenin’s reiterating of them. Violence is necessary in revolution and is therefore necessary to Marx. Although violence does not play an overwhelming part in Lenin’s State and Revolution, it plays an important one, and without the theme of violence Lenin would not be able to accurately describe or convey or resuscitate the works of Marx.