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Those of us who work on Recomposition differ about how important we think Marx’s writings about capitalism are and about which marxist writers we draw from, if any. For those of us who are more interested in and who identify with the marxist tradition (or maybe we should say traditions), our interests are largely despite some major reservations we have about much within marxism. This article by Michael Heinrich speaks to those reservations. (We have previously run an excerpt from his book, an excerpt on the role of the state in capitalist society, here.)
The article argues that there is no coherent thing called marxism. The article criticizes people who rewrite history in order to present such a coherent thing. Furthermore, too many marxists overstate the unity and coherence of Marx’s own writings. Among other things we think this is worth reading because there are some relics of the bad old marxisms still lingering on in the present, both in organizations and habits of thought.
Capitalism touches every moment of our lives, and always for the worse. That’s why capitalism must be replaced with a new and better society. The state is everywhere too. But how do the two relate? What is the role of the state in maintaining capitalism? And what is the role of the state in creating a new society? Like many people, those of us who edit Recomposition want capitalism to end. We want a society where all people get what they want and need: everything for everyone. We believe that the state will not help us create this new society, and that the new society won’t have a state.
Criticism of the state has been a thread in the Industrial Workers of the World for a long time. Since the beginning of the organization in 1905, IWW members have debated over how to understand the state and how to relate to the state practically, including the rejection of the political use of elections and the state system of mediating class conflict. The organization today is culturally anti-state and most members hold these kinds of views. In my view as an IWW member, we should discuss these views more explicitly in the organization today. We should add to our Preamble that we do not see the state as a means for working class revolution nor do we see the state as having a role in the good society created by revolution.
With that in mind, this post is about the relationship between the state and capitalism, excerpted from Michael Heinrich’s excellent recent book, An Introduction to the Three Volumes of Karl Marx’s Capital with the permission of the publishers. The core points of this excerpt are that the state is central to the life of capitalism, and that the state is not simply a tool which can be picked up and used politically. The state is not an object; it is a social relationship. These points are particularly relevant today. Today there is debate about what the state should do and how we should relate to the state among the labor movement and the left as well as both the capitalists and their governments. Among those of us seeking a better society, these debates should be informed by analysis of the relationship between the state and capitalism. – Nate Hawthorne