Over the last few years, I have become convinced by Losurdo’s argument that a socialist state must be a strong state. How else can you transform a society, economics and culture? How else can you develop world-leading affirmative action programs in relation to ethnic minorities, or foster anti-colonial struggles, or establish major infrastructure, or indeed develop five-year plans? Stalin was, of course, the proponent of a strong socialist state, but he had to deal with a curious observation from Engels concerning the ‘withering away of the state’. Losurdo shows how Marx and Engels actually recognised the need for the state to continue, observing that the whole idea of its withering was a petty-bourgeois, anarchist aberration. As for Stalin, he argued that it may be very well in the context of global socialism, but until then a strong socialist state is needed to deal with its many enemies. Or, as van Ree observes, ‘He was realistic enough and not enough of a utopian to embark on a course of self-destruction’.
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