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International Socialism, Autumn 1964


Tony Young

Uneasy Reconciliation


From International Socialism, No.18, Autumn 1964, p.33.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


State and Law: Soviet and Yugoslav Theory
Ivo Lapenna
Athlone Press (University of London), 25s.

Dr Lapenna’s book deserves unreserved recommendation not only to those who may be specially interested in the Marxist theory of the state or of law, but also to anyone concerned to learn more of the way in which apologists for the Russian Government try to reconcile social reality with the teachings of Marx and Lenin, and the practical legal requirements of the ruling class with their need to justify themselves as socialists and Marxists.

Many people who are aware of the facts and statistics contradicting Communist Party’s claim that Russia is a socialist society still seem to feel that there must be something socialist about a country that canonises Marx, Engels and Lenin: this book shows with a wealth of detail both how and with what difficulty the ideology is shored up.

Dr Lapenna succeeds in giving an admirably fair and clear statement of the Marxist view of the class nature of law and of the state, and while pointing to what he considers to be gaps in them, convincingly expands their implications, and his book would repay study for this section alone. He goes on to trace the history of the successive schools of legal theory in Russia (and to a lesser extent in Yugoslavia) since the Revolution, which in the 1920’s yielded some contributions still of value, until in 1936 the infamous Vyshinsky, the prosecutor in the Moscow trials, became the sole infallible spokesman on law, as Lysenko was to become in biology. Finally, it is demonstrated how, since the death of Stalin, the relaxation of police power has required the growth of perhaps less fearsome but even more pathetic theories, trying to reconcile classical Marxism, the postponement of the promised withering away of the state, the boasted appearance of ‘the state of the entire people’ and the daily shooting of speculators and bribe-takers.

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