11. The Soviets of Workers’, Soldiers’, Peasants’ and other Deputies are not understood, not only in the sense that their class significance, their role in the Russianrevolution, is not clear to the majority. They are not understood also in the sense that they constitute a new form or rather a new type of state.
The most perfect, the most advanced type of bourgeois state is the parliamentary democratic republic: power is vested in parliament; the state machine, the apparatus and organ of administration, is of the customary kind: the standing army, the police, and the bureaucracy—which in practice is undisplaceable, is privileged and stands abovethe people.
Since the end of the nineteenth century, however, revolutionary epochs have advanced a highertype of democratic state, a state which in certain respects, as Engels put it, ceases to be a state, is “no longer a state in the proper sense of the word”. This is a state of the Paris Commune type, one in which a standing army and police divorced from the people are replacedby the direct arming of the people themselves. It is this featurethat constitutes the very essence of the Commune, which has been so misrepresented and slandered by the bourgeois writers, and to which has been erroneously ascribed, among other things, the intention of immediately “introducing” socialism.
This is the type of state which the Russian revolution beganto create in 1905 and in 1917. A Republic of Soviets of Workers’, Soldiers’, Peasants’, and other Deputies, united in an All-Russia Constituent Assembly of people’s representatives or in a Council of Soviets, etc., is what is already being realisedin our country now, at this juncture. It is being realised by the initiative of the nation’s millions, who are creating a democracy on their own, in their own waywithout waiting until the Cadet professors draft their legislative bills for a parliamentary bourgeois republic, or until the pedants and routine-worshippers of petty-bourgeois “Social-Democracy”, like Mr. Plekhanov or Kautsky, stop distorting the Marxist teaching on the state.
Marxism differs from anarchism in that it recognises the needfor a state and for state power in the period of revolution in general, and in the period of transition from capitalism to socialism in particular.
Marxism differs from the petty-bourgeois, opportunist “Social-Democratism” of Plekhanov, Kautsky and Co. in that it recognises that what is required during these two periods is nota state of the usual parliamentary bourgeois republican type, but a state of the Paris Commune type.
The main distinctions between a state of the latter type and the old state are as follows.
It is quite easy (as history proves) to revert from a parliamentary bourgeois republic to a monarchy, for all the machinery of oppression—the army, the police, and the bureaucracy—is left intact. The Commune and the Soviet smashthat machinery and do away with it.
The parliamentary bourgeois republic hampers and stifles the independent political life of the massestheir direct participation in the democraticorganisation of the life of the state from the bottom up. The opposite is the case with the Soviets.
The latter reproduce the type of state which was being evolved by the Paris Commune and which Marx described as “the political form at last discovered under which to work out the economic emancipation of labour”.
We are usually told that the Russian people are not yet prepared for the “introduction” of the Commune. This was the argument of the serf-owners when they claimed that the peasants were not prepared for emancipation. The Commune, i.e., the Soviets, does not “introduce”, does not intend to “introduce”, and must not introduce anyreforms which have not absolutely matured both in economic reality and in the minds of the overwhelming majority of the people. The deeper the economic collapse and the crisis produced by the war, the more urgent becomes the need for the most perfect political form, which will facilitatethe healing of the terrible wounds inflicted on mankind by the war. The less the organisational experience of the Russian people, the more resolutely must we proceedto organisational development by the people themselvesand not merely by the bourgeois politicians and “well-placed” bureaucrats.
The sooner we shed the old prejudices of pseudo-Marxism, a Marxism falsified by Plekhanov, Kautsky and Co., the more actively we set about helping the people to organise Soviets of Workers’ and Peasants’ Deputies everywhere and immediately, and helping the latter to take life in its entiretyunder their control, and the longer Lvov and Co. delay the convocation of the Constituent Assembly, the easier will it be for the people (through the medium of the Constituent Assembly, or independently of it, if Lvov delays its convocation too long) to cast their decision in favour of a republic of Soviets of Workers’ and Peasants’ Deputies. Errors in the new work of organisational development by the people themselves are at first inevitable; but it is better to make mistakes and go forward than to waituntil the professors of law summoned by Mr. Lvov draft their laws for the convocation of the Constituent Assembly, for the perpetuation of the parliamentary bourgeois republic and for the strangling of the Soviets of Workers’ and Peasants’ Deputies.
If we organise ourselves and conduct our propaganda skilfully, not only the proletarians, but nine-tenths of the peasants will be opposed to the restoration of the police, will be opposed to an undisplaceable and privileged bureaucracy and to an army divorced from the people. And that is all the new type of state stands for.
12. The substitution of a people’s militia for the police is a reform that follows from the entire course of the revolution and that is now being introduced in most parts of Russia. We must explain to the people that in most of the bourgeois revolutions of the usual type, this reform was always extremely short-lived, and that the bourgeoisie—even the most democratic and republican—restored the police of the old, tsarist type, a police divorced from the people, commanded by the bourgeoisie and capable of oppressing the people in every way.
There is only one way to preventthe restoration of the police, and that is to create a people’s militia and to fuse it with the army (the standing army to be replaced by the arming of the entire people). Service in this militia should extend to all citizens of both sexes between the ages of fifteen and sixty-five without exception, if these tentatively suggested age limits may be taken as indicating the participation of adolescents and old people. Capitalists must pay their workers, servants, etc., for days devoted to public service in the militia. Unless women are brought to take an independent part not only in political life generally, but also in daily and universal public service, it is no use talking about full and stable democracy, let alone socialism. And such “police” functions as care of the sick and of homeless children, food inspection, etc., will never be satisfactorily discharged until women are on an equal footing with men, not merely nominally but in reality.
The tasks which the proletariat must put before the people in order to safeguard, consolidate and develop the revolution are prevention of the restoration of the police and enlistment of the organisational forces of the entire people in forming a people’s militia.