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Class struggle and the State apparatus

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by Alice M.
In their detailed analysis of classes and class struggle Marx, Engels and Lenin paid a great deal of attention to the decisive role of the coercive state apparatus in enforcing the rule of the class that holds the economic and political power in society. 
Their investigations into the historical origins of classes and class struggle showed that the state apparatus arose at the time when human society divided into two main classes – the exploited and oppressed majority who create all the wealth (surplus value) in society, and a small minority who own the means of production, exploit the vast majority and keep the surplus value for their own class.
The job of the capitalist state machine is to suppress the resistance and struggles of the working class, and ensure that the exploitation by the minority class is not interfered with or disturbed by the majority working class of the exploited population. In his 1919 lecture on The State, Lenin said, “The state is a machine for maintaining the rule of one class over another.”
Today’s monopoly capitalist state is made up of the armed forces (army and police), jails, the public services, the courts, the extensive legal system and the mass media. The capitalist state is administered by parliament, the CEO (Chief Executive Office) for the ruling class.
Ted Hill, the founding Chairperson of the CPA (M-L) used these general truths of the coercive state machine exposed by Marx, Engels and Lenin, to examine the particularities and characteristics of Australia’s imperialist dominated capitalist state. His analysis deepened the revolutionary working class consciousness and advanced Australia’s revolutionary theory.
Marx, Engels, Lenin and Hill pointed out that the state apparatus takes many different forms, reflecting the historical, economic and social conditions of the time. The capitalist state uses both the open force and the deception as a means to suppress resistance and challenge to the main order of the capitalist class rule. Both the open and the deceptive coercion of the capitalist state are two sides of the same coin, often used simultaneously.
There’s the open violence and suppression by the armed forces – the army and the police, including the secret police, and imprisonment of rebellious workers. There’s also the coercive state machinery of the upper levels of the public service and the bourgeois legal system that administers and enforces the capitalist class exploitation.
The monopoly media is an essential part of this capitalist state’s superstructure. It vigorously imposes the ideology and interests of the monopoly capitalist class, and tries to crush or silence the voice and the will of the people when resistance and rebellion of the working class disturbs the smooth operations of the capitalist exploitation. 
The imperialist dominated capitalist state has always used both of these forms of state repression and coercion.
From the British colonial armed forces’ bloody and violent repression of the Aboriginal people, the violent putting down of rebellious convicts, the Eureka uprising of 1854, the struggles of shearers and maritime workers in the early 1890s, to the Chifley Labor government using the army to crush the striking coal miners in 1949.
More recently we have seen the 1998 MUA struggle, police attacking striking workers on the picket lines, the secretive Commonwealth Crimes Act and the more deceptive, but no less effective, suppression of working class struggles through the capitalist legal system in the form of the penal powers in the 1950s and 1960s, the BIIC, the ABCC, WorkChoices, Fair Work Australia and  many thousands more anti-worker laws designed to paralyse working class struggle and gut workers’ collective organisation.  
In the struggle between construction unions and the giant Grollo construction company in November 2012 the state deployed most instruments of the state machinery to suppress construction workers’ battle for safety in their workplace. More than one thousand armed and riot police were dispatched to the peaceful picket line.
Simultaneously, the capitalist state activated many of its anti-worker laws against the union and workers, and the capitalist mass media went into full drive spreading lies and propaganda to discredit and demonise the just fight of construction workers. 
In Australia’s present conditions, the capitalist state can largely rely on coercion by deception, through its legal system and the mass media, in the suppression of the exploited working class.   
Nevertheless, in spite of the coercive state machinery surrounding the working class, all the improvements to workers rights and conditions had been wrung out of the capitalist class through workers own struggles. They are important concessions forced on the ruling class by the organised and militant actions of the working class.
Through these actions the working class deepens the understanding of class struggle, the capitalist system and the role of its coercive state. 
We encourage activists to study – Engels’ Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State,  Lenin’s lecture on The State  and The State and Revolution, as well as Ted Hill’s Revolution and the Australian State.


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