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New Left Review I/56, July-August 1969

Lucio Colletti

Power and Democracy in Socialist Society

The basic theme of State and Revolution—the one that indelibly inscribes itself on the memory, and immediately comes to mind when one thinks of the work—is the theme of the revolution as a destructive and violent act. The revolution cannot be restricted to the seizure of power, it must also be the destruction of the old State. ‘The point is whether the old State machine shall remain, or be destroyed,’ says Lenin. [1] V.I. Lenin: ‘State and Revolution’, Selected Works in Three Volumes, Vol II, p.395.Sprengen, zerbrechen, destroy, smash: these words capture the tone of the text. Lenin’s polemic is not directed against those who do not wish for the seizure of power. The object of his attack is not reformism. On the contrary, it is directed against those who wish for the seizure of power but not for the destruction of the old State as well. The author he aims at is Kautsky. But not, let it be clear, the Kautsky who was to emerge after 1917 (in Terrorism and Communism, for example), but rather the Kautsky of the writings devoted to the struggle against opportunism: the Kautsky who wants revolution, and yet does not want the destruction of the old State machine.

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Lucio Colletti, ‘Power and Democracy in Socialist Society’, NLR I/56: £3

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