Stalin’s strong state versus withering away of the state

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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11 thoughts on “Stalin’s strong state versus withering away of the state

  1. Thanks for this, really interesting.

    I’m curious to know your thoughts on Venezuelan socialism. I’m thinking of Ciccariello-Maher’s “Building the Commune”. He seems to see Venezuela as a kind of hybrid: trying for a more vertical socialism that could be “strong,” but this is welded to a more horizontal, commune “base” that emphasizes equality over verticality. So a complex and sometimes problematic mix. Any thoughts?

      1. Yes, this needs to happen right away. Do we need to crowdfund this project? Let’s put the wheels in motion! Roland, you are in contact with Losurdo I take it. Perhaps you could inquire about this.

      2. I was forward enough to contact Dr Losurdo about this. He kindly informed me that there were no plans for an English language translation, although Manifesto Press (UK) was interested at one stage. A crowdfund would be an excellent idea.

      3. What’s holding it back, simply a lack of funds or interest from a publisher? I’m sure the CIA would have an interest in discouraging its publication into the world’s most far-reaching lingua franca.

  2. But not one that eliminates approximately 80% of the Central Committee of the Communist Party and many thousands more, overthrows the NEP, devastates the agriculture by a forced collectivisation, transforms Marxism into a canonized state religion. .

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