Marxist classics

The State and Revolution


The State and Revolution

By Vladimir Lenin

Written: August - September, 1917
Source: Collected Works, Volume 25, p. 381-492
Publisher: Progress Publishers, Moscow, USSR
First Published: 1918
Online Version: mea 1993; 1999
Transcribed: Zodiac
HTML Markup: Brian Basgen

Lenin wrote The State and Revolution in August and September 1917, when he was in hiding. The need for such a theoretical work was mentioned by Lenin in the second half of 1916. It was then that he wrote his note on "The Youth International", in which he criticised Bukharin's anti-Marxist position on the question of the state and promised to write a detailed article on the Marxist attitude to the state. In a letter to A.M. Kollontai on February 17 (N.S.), 1917, he said that he had almost got ready material on that question (See Collected Works, Vol. 35, p. 286).

This material was written in a small hand in a blue-covered notebook headed "marxism on the State". In it he had collected quotations from the works of Marx and Engels, and extracts from the books by Kautsky, Pannekoek and Bernstein with his own critical notes, conclusions and generalisations.

When Lenin left Switzerland for Russia in April 1917, he feared arrest by the Provisional Government and left the manuscript of "Marxism on the State" behind. When in hiding after the July events, Lenin wrote in a note:

"...if I am knocked off, I ask you to publish my notebook 'Marxism on the State' (it got held up in Stockholm). It is bound in a blue cover. All the quotations from Marx and Engels are collected there, also those from Kautsky against Pannekoek. There are a number of remarks, notes and formulas. I think a week's work would be enough to publish it. I consider it important because not only Pkekhanov, but Kautsky, too, is confused...." When Lenin received his notebook from Stockholm, he used the material he had collected as a basis for his masterly book The State and Revolution.

According to Lenin's plan, The State and Revolution was to have consisted of seven chapters, but he did not write the seventh, "The Experience of the Russian Revolutions of 1905 and 1917", and only a detailed plan has remained. In a note to the publisher Lenin wrote that if he "was too slow in competing this, the seventh chapter, or should it turn out to be too bulky, the first six chapters should be published separately as Book One."

The name F.F. Ivanovsky is shown on the first page of the manuscript as that of the author. Lenin intended to publish the book under that pseudonym, otherwise the Provisional Government would have confiscated it. The book, however, was not printed until 1918, when there was no longer any need for the pseudonym. The second edition appeared in 1919; Lenin added to Chapter II a new section "The Presentation of the Question by Marx in 1852" for this edition.

[This introduction and text mark-up credit:]

Further reading: What About Russia?

On the Socialist Party website: The Russian Revolution took place in October 1917, inspiring revolutions throughout Europe and the rest of the world.

For 70 years the debate about what sort of society had been established in Russia raged among socialists. Despite the collapse of these regimes, the debate goes on - What was the significance of the Russian Revolution? Does Stalinism inevitably arise from any attempt to establish a socialist society? More ...

The State and Revolution


The question of the state is now acquiring particular importance both in theory and in practical politics. The imperialist war has immensely accelerated and intensified the process of transformation of monopoly capitalism into state-monopoly capitalism. The monstrous oppression of the working people by the state, which is merging more and more with the all-powerful capitalist associations, is becoming increasingly monstrous. The advanced countries - we mean their hinterland - are becoming military convict prisons for the workers.

The unprecedented horrors and miseries of the protracted was are making the people's position unbearable and increasing their anger. The world proletarian revolution is clearly maturing. The question of its relation to the state is acquiring practical importance.

The elements of opportunism that accumulated over the decades of comparatively peaceful development have given rise to the trend of social-chauvinism which dominated the official socialist parties throughout the world. This trend - socialism in words and chauvinism in deeds (Plekhanov, Potresov, Breshkovskaya, Rubanovich, and, in a slightly veiled form, Tsereteli, Chernov and Co. in Russia; Scheidemann. Legien, David and others in Germany; Renaudel, Guesde and Vandervelde in France and Belgium; Hyndman and the Fabians in England, etc., etc.) - is conspicuous for the base, servile adaptation of the "leaders of socialism" to the interests not only of "their" national bourgeoisie, but of "their" state, for the majority of the so-called Great Powers have long been exploiting and enslaving a whole number of small and weak nations. And the imperialist war is a war for the division and redivision of this kind of booty. The struggle to free the working people from the influence of the bourgeoisie in general, and of the imperialist bourgeoisie in particular, is impossible without a struggle against opportunist prejudices concerning the "state".

First of all we examine the theory of Marx and Engels of the state, and dwell in particular detail on those aspects of this theory which are ignored or have been distorted by the opportunists. Then we deal specially with the one who is chiefly responsible for these distortions, Karl Kautsky, the best-known leader of the Second International (1889-1914), which has met with such miserable bankruptcy in the present war. Lastly, we sum up the main results of the experience of the Russian revolutions of 1905 and particularly of 1917. Apparently, the latter is now (early August 1917) completing the first stage of its development; but this revolution as a whole can only be understood as a link in a chain of socialist proletarian revolutions being caused by the imperialist war. The question of the relation of the socialist proletarian revolution to the state, therefore, is acquiring not only practical political importance, but also the significance of a most urgent problem of the day, the problem of explaining to the masses what they will have to do before long to free themselves from capitalist tyranny.

The Author [Vladimir Lenin]
August 1917

Preface to the Second Edition

The present, second edition is published virtually unaltered, except that section 3 had been added to Chapter II.

The Author
December 17, 1918